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Rainbow Centre shifts to city control for key project ; Title agreement will lead to NCCC culinary center

The city now has complete control of the vacant Rainbow Centre, enabling it to subdivide the portion of the former shopping mall that is to be occupied by Niagara County Community College's planned culinary arts center.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Wednesday that the Cordish Co., former operator of the shopping mall, had signed a charitable contribution agreement allowing the NCCC Foundation to acquire the Cordish lease and to take title to the nearby "balloon launch" property.

"The City of Niagara Falls and the [NCCC] Foundation then terminated the ground lease [for the mall], and the foundation deeded the balloon launch parcel to the city," Dyster said.

That parcel, which had been owned by Cordish, once was the site of a hot-air balloon ride and tourist attraction.

The city now can convey the subdivided portion of the mall to Niagara County in the next step toward making the culinary institute a reality.

The institute, formally called the Hospitality and Tourism Center and Culinary Arts Institute, is to occupy about 70,000 square feet of the 200,000-square-foot mall facing Old Falls Street between Rainbow Boulevard and First Street.

"The culinary arts project demonstrates how much can be accomplished when the private sector, local government and our education community combine efforts to achieve a common goal," the mayor said.

"This is an exciting and innovative project that will have a positive impact for our city, the NCCC students and our tourism infrastructure," he continued.

NCCC eventually will move its current culinary arts program from its location on the college's main campus in Sanborn to renovated space in the Rainbow Centre. The institute will train students in the preparation of food and food management services.

The institute will include a restaurant that will be open to the public, complementing the variety of foods available at nearby privately owned restaurants, the mayor said.

USA Niagara Development Corp., a major investor in the project, has adopted a "general project plan" that earmarks $9 million for interior demolition and upgrading of the former shopping mall and rehabilitation of the attached parking garage, and $17.1 million for the design and development of the culinary institute.

Backers of the plan hope to open the institute for the beginning of the college semester in September 2012.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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