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HOLE WILL BE FILLED IN AFTER AQUARIUM PLANS FALL THROUGH

Four pumps have been draining the excavation next to the former Occidental building, and filling the hole might begin in a week or so.

Frank Parlato, who plans to turn the former office building into a tourist magnet called One Niagara, said he no longer is considering building a parking garage in the pit.

"Now we're moving forward without any further ado," Parlato said.

In a week to 10 days, trucks should start dumping loads of rock into the hole, he said. Bad weather or the discovery of vulnerable underground utility lines could delay the work, he said.

Parlato said he was moving ahead with his plans instead of awaiting the disposition of a 20-foot strip of land along the northern border of the property. Controlled by James "Harry" Williams, a Grand Island businessman and waste disposal mogul, the land was donated for the AquaFalls project, which failed after the hole was dug.

Williams has stated that, if asked, he probably would return the land to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, from which he had obtained it. Parlato said he believed the City of Niagara Falls was preparing to ask the Bridge Commission to make such a request.

"Our Law Department is drafting a letter to that effect," Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello said. "The property itself can't be developed, so without the AquaFalls project it wouldn't make sense to keep that property separate."

The city supports adding the land to the One Niagara parcel, Anello said.

Parlato said the strip includes part of the excavation, but that Williams had assured him filling the hole would not cause legal problems.

Plans call for a fleet of 10 or more trucks to dump 10,000 to 15,000 tons of stone into the hole, he said. The bottom of the hole is below the water table, and the "shot rock" layer, up to 8 feet deep, will allow water to pass through.

Then it will be covered with about 50,000 cubic yards of clay-rock fill from a Town of Niagara site. The fill has to be compacted properly, Parlato said, and will be covered with gravel. The lot won't be blacktopped this season, he said.

"If everything goes perfectly, which it probably won't, it could be done in four weeks," he said. "Wet weather would delay it, so it could be twice that long."

Parlato said he wants to open One Niagara, in some form, for the upcoming tourist season. Long-term plans for the building include a tourist welcome center, shops, conference space and a restaurant, he said.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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