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Another downtown Niagara Falls hotel is changing hands, and the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency is being asked to supply a tax break for the prospective new owner.

Ashak Merani, owner of the Days Inn and Suites by the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ont., is planning to buy the Sheraton Four Points Hotel, 114 Buffalo Ave.

The IDA application from the newly formed Merani Holdings says it will buy the Four Points from Servico Niagara Falls for $2.95 million by the end of the year.

The new owner plans to carry out $2 million worth of improvements between January and April. The seven-story, 189-room hotel will retain its Sheraton franchise, IDA Assistant Director Larry D. Witul told the agency board Thursday.

The hotel's current staff of 27, 16 of whom are full-timers, would be increased to 34, with 22 full-timers, within three years, according to the application.

The hotel at present is fully taxable, with a combined 2004 city, county and school tax bill of $260,083.

Witul said the only property tax break Merani Holdings can receive is a 10-year abatement on $500,000 worth of increased property value resulting from the renovation. The Four Points' current assessed value is almost $4.2 million.

In addition to the property tax break, the IDA can cancel the mortgage recording tax and the sales tax Merani normally would pay on construction materials.

A public hearing on the application will have to be held, but no date was announced.

In other action at Thursday's IDA board meeting, the agency's 2005 budget was adopted with little change from the one for 2004. The $705,365 budget is $4,000 less than this year's.

Executive Director Samuel M. Ferraro said a supplemental $150,000 from the Niagara Economic Development Fund, not part of the IDA's operating budget, will be used for efforts to market Niagara County, especially among southern Ontario firms, as a place to relocate.

The agency also extended through next August its agreement with Coldwell Banker Meridian as the exclusive realtor listing available lots in Vantage International Pointe, the IDA-owned industrial park in Wheatfield.

The board also approved a two-year, $138,000 contract with Harry Sicherman of Amherst to serve as consultant to the agency's Microenterprise Assistance Program. The Governor's Office of Small Cities gave the agency a $400,000 grant in September to bolster that program, which makes loans to new or very small businesses.


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