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Falls lines up $1.5 million for NCCC Council to vote today on helping to finance new culinary-hospitality institute downtown

The City Council will vote today on pumping $1.5 million of its slot machine revenue into a project to open a Niagara County Community College culinary and hospitality institute on Third Street.

The money is half of what college President James P. Klyczek had requested last month during a meeting with the Council on the $15.2 million project.

But Council Chairman Sam Fruscione noted that city leaders also are trying to help the college acquire a parcel of land owned by the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

It also could consider providing additional funding as the project advances, he said.

"We really believe in this project 100 percent," Fruscione said. "We think it's very important to get this college campus in downtown Niagara Falls."

NCCC officials have been working for months to round up public and private financing to locate the culinary institute in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Third Street and a three-story building to be constructed next door.

The structure, on land now owned by the city's Urban Renewal Agency, would house classrooms, laboratories, offices and a theater for the school's Hospitality Management and Tourism Center and Culinary Institute.

Klyczek has held several meetings with Mayor Paul A. Dyster since January to discuss how much the city could afford to contribute.

The $1.5 million grant from the city would be used for capital costs, according to Dyster's proposal, which was submitted to the Council last week.

The city's contribution would come from its share of this year's and next year's slot machine revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

"We're also going to give them property, and that property is very valuable," Councilman Chris Robins said. "We haven't gotten the total amount of what that property value is; that is something else we plan on giving."

The money would be the first financial support the city has pledged to the project.

Niagara County has approved a $1.5 million bond issue for the project.

Klyczek told the Council last month that state money, additional county funds and private donations will make up the rest of the project financing.

Robins said the public money could help lure private donations to the school's proposal.

"I think we're giving enough to say, 'We're committed to the project,' " Robins said.

"At the same time, let's go to the foundations," he continued. "Let's go to all the other entities and see if there are other monies that can come to the project."

Klyczek has said he expects the first phase of the project -- which includes two food-related operations in the Crowne Plaza -- to open by the end of the year.

Construction of the new building would not begin until all of the financing has been arranged, he told the Council.

Early last year, city leaders and members of the city's volunteer Tourism Advisory Board held a rally to launch a lobbying effort to have the culinary institute located in downtown Niagara Falls.

Since then, the scope of the institute has expanded.

"It's a much broader vision now," Klyczek told the Council last month. "Now we're really talking about a hospitality and tourism center, of which the culinary institute is one component."

The institute also would offer community education programs, plus economic and work force development efforts.

City officials have expressed hope that the institute would draw students and tourists to the area.

But they had been reluctant until now to say exactly how much the city would contribute.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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