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Rehab the walkway; Niagara Falls eyesore could get new life if neighboring businesses agree to plan

The effort by Niagara Falls officials to rehabilitate the unused glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway along Old Falls Street is worth supporting, but will require a quick compromise between the city and the owners of adjoining properties if it is to open by Independence Day.

The goal is to revamp a relic of past hopes by urban renewal planners who thought the walkway would encourage tourists to visit attractions along Old Falls Street during uninviting off-season weather.

Well, that dream died. And so, essentially, did the walkway, which has been unused and undeveloped for years.

The new hopes take the shape of a row of small stores or shopping stalls, to open in time for the July Fourth holiday weekend. At this point, reaching that timeline will be difficult, but why not try?

The business development director said bids would be sought within the next couple of weeks. After approval, the reconstruction work will likely take about 30 days. Easier said than done, of course. But then again, anything's possible.

The city already has a stake in the project, after allocating $200,000 last fall. Back then, officials thought the stores and vending sites would be operational by this week.

Unfortunately, some business owners have had their own concerns over the project, including whether it would restrict access to nearby buildings. The walkway, although city-owned, abuts the outside wall of several structures, including the vacant Falls Street Station building last used as a telephone call center.

The walkway extends about 300 feet along the north side of Old Falls Street between Third Street and old First Street, sometimes referred to as North Rainbow Boulevard.

Businesses are certainly entitled to their own long-range plans and there are plenty of cases in Niagara Falls in which entrepreneurs have laid claim to land and property for, shall we say, future use. But when years go by and those spaces go from simply being unused to unsightly, it's time for all parties to reach an agreement for the greater good.

The city wants to bring more activity to Old Falls Street and there's no reason to believe that vendors, think T-shirts and coffee mugs, couldn't make a go of it.

City officials don't always get it right. But here is an ideal opportunity to take a failed project from the past and use the lessons learned to turn it around.

The city and interested businesses should make an effort toward compromise that will both benefit tourists and put money in the pockets of local businesses by drawing those tourists to Old Falls Street.

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