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Falls Council unanimously OKs plan for 36-day Holiday Market downtown

The City Council cleared the way Monday for an Idaho commercial developer to move ahead with his plan for a $900,000 Holiday Market for 36 days later this year along Old Falls Street.

The five-member Council voted unanimously to advance $40,000 to Mark Rivers' Brix & Co. of Boise as a down payment on a grant that could amount to $225,000 if Brix meets several conditions, including a progress report every two months.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster gave the Council a business summary that said the Holiday Market could create 300 part-time jobs and give the city an estimated $70,000 to $80,000 in sales tax revenue, "bed taxes" for hotel and motel occupancy, and parking fees.

The resolution adopted Monday contained far more detail than a similar resolution the Council put on hold two weeks ago.

The earlier resolution ran into a wall of opposition when the city Tourism Advisory Board gave it an informal "thumbs-down" last week. Attorney Morton H. Abramowitz had told the board, "You need more information before you can vote for this proposal."

Abramowitz had high praise Monday for Dyster, Council Chairman Sam Fruscione and other members of the Council for working together to provide the additional details that led to approval. "This proves that you can get things done here," Abramowitz said.

Among public speakers before Monday's vote was taken, two of them opposed the project, and two supported it.

Anthony Gara, of 70th Street, a retiree, said, "The market would be a bad idea. It would be money down the drain." He asked whether union carpenters would be hired to build the vendor booths, who would keep the area clean, who would plow the snow, who would get the booths after the event was over, and who would store them until the next season.

The public speaking portion of Council meetings is not a question-and-answer session, and his questions went unanswered.

"I have a hard time believing these revenue estimates," said Tim McSweeney, of LaSalle Avenue. "This should be given more thought. I don't see how we are going to get any money back."

In contrast, Ron Anderluh, of Buffalo Avenue, representing the Niagara Street Business Association, said he would rather see the Holiday Market extended through the summer, "when it would provide more sales tax income."

Diane Tattersall, of Fort Avenue, said, "We all should prepare for this event enthusiastically."

Brix would run the event from Nov. 26 to Jan. 1 in cooperation with Global Spectrum, which manages Conference Center Niagara on Old Falls Street, and USA Niagara Development Corp., an arm of the state economic-development agency.

Christopher J. Schoepflin, president of USA Niagara, told the Council that he expected the event to be "a great success." He said that each of the estimated 80 vendors would be charged a rental fee ranging from $20 to $150 a day, depending on the size of their booth.

Corporation Counsel Craig H. Johnson said Council members could decide in late July whether plans for the market were moving along well enough for the city to put up the remaining $185,000 of the grant sought by Rivers' company.

The total projected financing would include the $225,000 from the city, a like amount from USA Niagara, $15,000 from Global Spectrum and $535,000 from sponsorships, income and services provided by Brix & Co.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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