The NFTA took steps today toward negotiating a new lease with the owners of Shooters Waterfront Cafe, but the authority questioned new lease terms that would provide the restaurant with five more acres of waterfront land for parking.
The agreement, outlined at a meeting of the authority's Operations Committee today, provides for accelerated lease payments by Shooters' owners, EDB Inc., in return for an additional year to construct a new marina adjacent to Shooters at Seaway Piers. General Counsel Lawrence M. Meckler recommended the agreement as a way to provide some security for the popular restaurant's struggling owners, while generating new revenue for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
"I think it will protect the authority and accelerate payments to it while allowing EDB until 1991 to finish Phase 1 of its construction," Meckler said.
The new lease agreements between EDB and the authority call for several new terms, but the one proving most controversial is a clause that provides Shooters with five acres of waterfront land just south of its current boundary. The agreement needs the approval of the NFTA's Board of Commissioners to take effect.
"How can we take five acres of land on the waterfront and make a parking lot out of it for the next 45 years?" asked Chairman Robert D. Gioia, referring to the length of the lease.
He said he preferred land on the other side of the Skyway be designated for parking, leaving the waterfront area as "green space" until the Horizons Waterfront Commission completes a waterfront master plan.
EDB, owned by partners Jeffrey J. Davis and John J. Edwards, was scheduled to complete the first phase of its Seaway Piers marina development by this year. But the company's continuing financial difficulties spurred it to ask for an extension of the lease. Interim Executive Director Dominic J. Terranova said the new lease terms will help EDB secure the bank financing it needs to complete the project.
Under the new terms, the authority will receive its most lucrative rental income from Shooters a year earlier than planned. In addition, if the gross revenues in 1990 exceed those of 1989, the NFTA will receive $40,000 in new revenue this year.
"That's a bit of an increase for this year," Meckler said.
EDB now will be given until June of 1991 to develop the marina planned for the south slip of Seaway Piers, and until 1992 to develop the north slip. When completed, the facility will offer at least 400 new docking slips.
"The fact that this has been delayed has had a negative impact on our rental potential," Gioia said. "But to have someone else come in and take over could have an even more negative impact."
Gioia also noted ongoing federal and state investigations regarding Shooters' tax payments and corporate structure, and requested that staff obtain a detailed financial statement from the firm upon which to verify lease payments.
The committee also heard William A. Bulow, the NFTA's general manager of operations, explain that Edwards and Davis have now backed out of a plan to renovate the former DL&W terminal at the foot of Main Street into a retail and hotel complex.
"It's questionable how interested they are in this project," Bulow said.