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Hotel's rebirth paying off New Crowne Plaza expected to boost investment in Falls

The Egyptian limestone in the lobby of the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Hotel on Third Street was spotless Tuesday as employees made last-minute adjustments before a ceremony to dedicate the city's newest luxury accommodation.

The $20 million transformation of the former Holiday Inn Select at 300 Third St. into a Crowne Plaza included construction of a new entrance, full renovation of 391 guest rooms and suites and updated meeting and conference facilities, as well as upgrades to infrastructure, including heating and cooling.

So far, guests have noticed.

"We weren't used to getting compliments before the remodeling," said Stan Tryninewski, who has worked as a bellman and other positions at the hotel for 27 years.

The downtown property was bought in July 2005 for $14 million by NS Partners LLC -- a joint partnership between Arizona-based Namwest LLC and Sentry Hospitality, the firm that operates Conference Center Niagara Falls next door.

The New York Empire State Development Corp. will reimburse NS Partners up to $6 million for its capital improvements to the 33-year-old property.

Mark Magarity, president and CEO of Sentry Hospitality, said he believes this is the largest public-private development project ever done in this part of the state and said the support of state funds was key to pulling it off.

"We were stepping up at a time when risk was real risk," he said. "I'm here to make a commitment to the lawmakers and to the meeting planners and the guests . . . to provide four-diamond service that is unparalleled and yet unseen in Niagara Falls."

Local and state officials said the presence of such a high-quality hotel would encourage more investment and renovation in downtown Niagara Falls.

"This will attract a broader confidence in the market," predicted Empire State Development Chairman Charles A. Gargano. "In just a few short years, the attitude is changing. There is a feeling things are getting done."

The property is expected to generate an additional $1.6 million in property taxes in the next 10 years, as well as more local hotel occupancy taxes, according to officials, and will create more than 100 additional jobs during the next three years.

"They are raising the bar for other hotels," Mayor Vince Anello said. "What this means to me is stabilizing the city's tax base."

The hotel is seeing an increase in room and meeting bookings for 2007, Magarity said, but Conference Center Niagara Falls is expecting to reap some benefits as well.

General Manager John Faso said meeting planners have turned away from the Falls conference center in the past because they require a higher level of rooms for their guests than the city could offer. He said the Crowne Plaza will change that.

The renovation also includes two new restaurants and a Starbucks, as well as an updated pool and new fitness equipment, but Tryninewski said it is the new Crowne Plaza pillow-top beds that seem to be the biggest hit with guests.

"They tell us they want to buy the bed," Tryninewski said. "They say they've never had such a good night's sleep."

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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