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City may join developer in parking deal

NIAGARA FALLS -- City Hall wants to borrow $2.1 million to go into the parking lot business with developer Frank Parlato.

The city would pay to demolish the former Occidental Chemical building, once earmarked for the ill-fated AquaFalls proposal. Parlato would run a parking lot on the site and continue his tourist midway operation there.

The parking fees would pay the city back, and a mortgage would secure payment for the city, Parlato said Thursday.

"I wanted to be the first developer to come up with a development partnership with the city that future residents would not regret," he said.

The proposal will come before the City Council on Monday.

"I like the idea," Councilman Lewis Rotella said. "It's an eyesore, and they aren't going to develop it."

Eight months ago, the city was pursuing ordinance violation charges against Parlato related to food and souvenir stands along his property. Council members complained about street vendors on his property operating out of makeshift tents.

Now the city wants to go into business with him on the tourist midway and a parking lot that would hold about 330 cars, Parlato said.

The city will get about 15 percent of the parking lot profits, after the bond interest payment and property taxes are paid, Parlato said.

Mayor Vince Anello called the site near the entrance of the Rainbow Bridge an eyesore.

"Since no one else has come up with any ideas," Anello said, "we're trying to enter into partnership to facilitate taking care of that parcel and building."

He said James C. Roscetti, an attorney hired recently to negotiate with the chosen developer of the city's Public Safety Building project, has been negotiating with Parlato for the city.

Asked for the building's unpaid property tax bill, a city billing office employee said he was waiting for permission to release that information from the city comptroller, Maria Brown, who could not be reached Thursday.

More than $250,000 in back taxes is due on the building, which has an annual tax bill of about $360,000, Parlato said.

If demolished, its $4.7 million assessed value would be removed from city tax rolls.

Anello said negotiations with Parlato will continue before the city completes the deal.

Since taking over the building in November 2004 with partner Steven Pigeon, Parlato has said he wanted it to become a tourist center, possibly with a restaurant and concert space. After tenants left the 150,000-square-foot building, Parlato installed wood stoves in the lobby and had its electrical system running on vegetable oil burned in a generator.

The city already has $4.5 million in parking project debt and spends $600,000 more to operate three parking lots and a parking garage. During last summer's peak tourist season, the city took in about $405,000 from all parking sources.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com and agalarneau@buffnews.com

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