Niagara County Community College President James P. Klyczek and the board of trustees deserve praise for the plans being put together for the Tourism and Hospitality Management Center and the Culinary Institute.
These facilities will involve retrofitting part of the Crowne Plaza Hotel and new construction on a nearby site. The strategy is forward-looking and inclusive, incorporating education, a television studio to produce cooking shows, a cooperative venture with the Niagara Wine Trail Consortium, a need for student housing that could rise to 1,000, interactive tourist possibilities, as well as a tourist attraction of glass-fronted kitchens, where tourists on the sidewalk can observe students being trained by professional chefs.
This showcases our region and demonstrates the kind of creative, progressive thinking that can play a major role in revitalizing a city.
It's commendable that Klyczek and the board chose Niagara Falls for the location of the Center and Institute, and did so in opposition to some area politicians who supported other locations. The elements of the plan now clearly indicate the Niagara Falls location to be the superior choice.
In addition, the Falls location, whose waterfalls are known the world over for their beauty, also stands symbolically for the generation of power -- and therefore it's appropriate that the Institute and Center be examples of the wise use of energy.
These facilities should comply with the energy conservation standards of green building, as required by the resolution put forth by the Niagara County Environmental Management Council, sponsored by Legislator Jason Murgia and passed by the County Legislature.
We trust that this compliance will go far beyond minimum conservation requirements to reach for the same high standards of excellence already apparent in the initial stage planning. It seems, for example, only natural that heat from ovens and stoves should be captured by exchangers to be reused for hot water, heating, and so on, and that ideas such as a green roof should be explored for a greenhouse that could grow herbs, spices and other tender greens that might be used in cooking, salads, etc. Solar panels, or the latest cost-effective solar film now in final development stages, should also be investigated.
The broad implications of wise energy use are being recognized internationally. Regionally, we can make a contribution to this new direction while we save taxpayer dollars.
A building with dramatic energy conservation features would be of interest to visitors on tour, and with more than one building, the beginning of entirely new potential for visitors to spend time here would begin to emerge.
The Lewiston Public Library is scheduled for an energy efficient retrofit, a plan to be executed and aided by a study completed by the New York Power Authority and by funding obtained by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte.
The goal is to achieve LEED -- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- certification for the library. This is a worthwhile goal, and if it's met, the Center, Institute and library will be a good start for our region.
It's too bad that the NCCC dorms, the new courthouse on Main Street in Niagara Falls, and the new airport terminal under construction didn't have the necessary oversight or champion to ensure their being LEED certified, which doesn't seem to be part of their plans.
So the plans for the Lewiston Public Library, the NCCC Center and the Culinary Institute (mostly) deserve our applause.
If you've been waiting for the other shoe to drop here it is: Part of the Institute plan casually mentions a bookstore to be run by "a national vendor" that will offer, among other items, "standard fare."
This news is disturbing for a number of reasons. It appears that the "standard fare," that is to say, books generally, has the potential to threaten The Book Corner, the city's last surviving independent book store. The Book Corner is a cultural treasure that has kept its doors open through the thin years, patiently waiting for that revitalization of Main Street that keeps getting mentioned. The store maintains a solid collection of Niagara Falls books of interest to residents and visitors, as well as a wide variety of other books, new and used.
It is a place so loved by its customers that during a recent appearance there by Ginger Strand, author of "Inventing Niagara," which was filmed by C-Span and broadcast later on that channel, one member of the audience, when it came to Q & A time, delivered spontaneous testimony, a heartfelt thanks to the Book Corner for what it provides to the community, prior to asking a question. Can you imagine that happening in a Barnes & Noble?
We appreciate that business competition is an essential fundamental of our economic system, but the competition becomes fundamentally unfair when government supports, directly or by proxy, a business venture that will compete with an existing private business. That appears to be the situation here, with the State of New York, Niagara County and the City of Niagara Falls contributing an approximated total of $12 million to this Center/Institute project, which includes that "national vendor -- standard fare" bookstore.
We urge those huge contributors to attach a string to their huge contributions: stipulate a merchandising structure after discussion with The Book Corner proprietor that doesn't merely reduce the threat to the economic health of that establishment, but seeks through cooperative efforts to improve it.
That accomplished, congratulations again, best wishes, good luck, full steam ahead.
Bob Baxter, of Ransomville, is chairman of the Niagara Heritage Partnership Conservation Committee