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DEED, EASEMENT SOUGHT FOR AEROSPACE MUSEUM

Frank A. Amendola this week asked the Urban Renewal Agency to give up a deed and easement to a sliver of the Niagara Office Building in anticipation of creating an interactive entertainment center in conjunction with the Ira G. Ross Niagara Aerospace Museum.

The agency holds the deed to a 15-by-60-foot portion of the land under the building and a 45-by-60-foot easement in the building for access to an unused underground walkway that connects the building to the Convention & Civic Center.

Amendola plans to build a three-story addition along the south facade of the building to accommodate the interactive entertainment center.

In order to apply for financing through the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, Amendola said he needs clear title to the property. He said the deed on the building requires the city to reconvey the property if it ceases to be used for a public benefit.

John C. Drake, executive director of the agency, and Richard J. Rotella, agency counsel, said the staff has no objection to relinquishing title to the entrance to the unused walkway.

Amendola and Raymond T. O'Keefe, executive director of the aerospace museum, said they would not interfere with the ability to use the walkway on the premise that in the event of the museum's success and that of other downtown development, it would be advantageous to have it reopened.

Amendola, who has been trying to get the deed since 1993, will have to wait at least until Monday because a quorum of agency members was not present to act on his request. The six members present voiced no opposition.

The agency will reconvene at 3:15 p.m. Monday before the regular City Council meeting.

Amendola said a lease with the aerospace museum is 98 percent complete, and he expects to announce a deal by Oct. 1. He said the museum is expected to move into the second-floor space that was used by the Festival of Lights by Nov. 1.

The museum is leaving its current space in the Summit Park Mall because of an increase in rent from $412 to $6,000 a month, Amendola said. He said he would charge $15,000 a year -- "the exact offset of my real estate taxes."

Amendola said the museum hopes to reopen its current operation by Easter. The office building at 345 Third St. has display and auditorium space on its first three floors that is not suitable for office use.

Meantime, he said, he and the museum would pursue funding for the expansion. Amendola said plans are for aeronautical displays highlighting Western New York's history and contributions to the aerospace field along with entertainment and interactive components. He hopes construction will begin in two to three years.

He said, "We will not leave a hole" in the ground, a reference to the gaping excavation in front of the former Occidental Chemical Corp. Building for the proposed Aquafalls underground aquarium, where construction has been stalled for more than a year.

Amendola said the aerospace museum is not dependent on the city getting a gambling casino downtown.

He said the museum intends to affiliate with the Smithsonian Institution and to display one of four models of the plane that broke the sound barrier in 1946. The planes were built by the Bell Aircraft plant in Wheatfield. The museum would also contain a flight simulator, Amendola said.

He also is asking for a reduced rate for patrons parking in the city's parking ramp and said the IDA wants a guarantee of adequate parking for cars and buses.

e-mail: jscelsa@buffnews.com

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