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REDEVELOPER REACHES ACCORD ON SPLASH PARK PURCHASE

The Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. has reached agreement with the Niagara Venture to purchase the Niagara Splash water park, completing the mega parcel the company wants to put together for its major redevelopment of the downtown area.

The agreement was announced during foreclosure proceedings in State Supreme Court in Erie County Tuesday, according to Corporation Counsel Robert P. Merino. The city started foreclosing on the splash park in 1992 for non-payment of up to $14 million the city claimed the park owed.

Justice Edward A. Rath granted an adjournment requested by Niagara Venture and the redevelopment corporation to give them time to finalize terms of the settlement. Rath set a new court date of Oct. 21.

No details of the agreement were available Tuesday. Redevelopment officials were in Los Angeles and John P. Bartolomei, the attorney for and one of the principals in Niagara Venture, could not be reached to comment.

In a letter to Rath, Paul A. Grenga, general counsel for the redevelopment corporation, said the parties expect the agreement to be completed in the near future.

The corporation, which is headed by Canadian businessman Edwin A. Cogan, has an agreement with the city giving it control over 142 acres of downtown property, including what is known as the former mega mall site on the East Side. The Cogan group considers the splash park site critical "so they can plan a development without a hole in the middle of it," Merino said.

Under its contract with the city, the Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. is bound to invest at least $130 million in downtown development over the next eight years.

"We acknowledge that one of the ways to assure that NFRC receives clean title from the city may be by the issuance of a judgment of foreclosure. However, under the current such circumstances, we believe our input into the same would be beneficial to all parties," Grenga said in his letter to Rath.

"For these reasons we support the Niagara Venture's request for a reasonable adjournment so that we may finalize the settlement."

The negotiations between the redevelopment group and Niagara Venture were discussed at Monday's City Council meeting. Councilman Vincent R. Morello said he was upset that the city was doing business with Bartolomei.

Merino said the city is not involved in the negotiations. He said the possibility of the redevelopment group buying out Niagara Venture's interest does not affect the city's rights in the foreclosure suit.

"Our sole interest is foreclosing on the property or seeing Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. buy him out. Whether or not what we do with Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. has benefited John Bartolomei's position, I think it has. It also has benefited the city's position," Merino said.

City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said that the position that he and Mayor James C. Galie have taken is that it would be in the city's best interests if the splash park could be included in the redevelopment corporation's master plan for downtown.

The main issue for the city is that it receive $3 million from the redevelopment group to help repay what the splash park owes the city, he said.

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