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After four years of hurdles, ground breaks for Niagara Falls hotel

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

It's called the first non-casino related development of its scale to happen in Niagara Falls in four decades. Governor Andrew Cuomo was among the dignitaries who broke ground at a future hotel site, celebrating a project that is finally moving forward after four years.

When finished in late 2017, the forthcoming Hyatt hotel on Rainbow Boulevard will feature 128 rooms, ground-level retail and a top-floor convention space that will give guests a view of Niagara Falls and surrounding natural attractions.

The project, estimated at $35 million, is being developed by The Hamister Group. Mark Hamister, the company's CEO, says four years is a long time to get such a project moving, but there were many hurdles to clear.

"Projects of this kind require that each step be completed before we can reach the next level," Hamister said. "We had to negotiate a development agreement before we did anything else. Then we had to obtain the local approvals. Then we had to design a hotel that would fit on a tiny one-acre parcel."

Additional steps, Hamister continued, included a franchise application and approval, the completion of a design that would fit the standards of both the City of Niagara Falls and the Hyatt corporation and finally, of course, financing. 

Goldman Sachs is providing $24 million toward the project. Governor Cuomo said that's a sign of confidence that Niagara Falls is indeed on a comeback.

But the governor also admitted that the state needed to do its part and reverse a long trend of being unfriendly to business through "taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes..."

He also spoke of the reversal of a long-running culture of negativity in Western New York, one brought on by years of economic downturn and then numerous would-be development projects that would revive the region but never materialized. Following the ceremony, Cuomo told reporters that this project was simply too important to let fail.

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
An image of what will soon be a Hyatt hotel is displayed on a sign along Rainbow Boulevard, where it will be built.

"To me it became a bellwether, that if this project failed it would reinforce the negative impression of Niagara Falls," Cuomo said. "We believe if the project went ahead, if would actually affirm the opposite, the resurgence of Niagara Falls."

Cuomo told the guests at the groundbreaking ceremony that the mission to redevelop Niagara Falls is not to make it what it once was but, rather, what it never was. 

"A better, stronger, richer, more vibrant community than ever before," he said. "And we're going to leave our children a Niagara Falls that was better than the Niagara Falls our parents left us."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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