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Tax breaks sought from Niagara IDA for 4-story hotel in Falls

Frank Strangio is seeking tax breaks to build a $9.6 million, 110-room hotel on a vacant lot he bought late last year at Rainbow Boulevard and Fourth Street in Niagara Falls.

Strangio is asking the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for a 10-year property tax break and sales tax exemption for materials and furnishings to be used in the four-story hotel.

A national franchise will be sought, but the arrangements aren’t complete, said Strangio, a member of the family that owns Antonio’s Banquet & Conference Center on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Strangio said he hopes a national chain restaurant can be lured to the retail space in his company’s new building, to be erected a block from Seneca Niagara Casino.

“It’s something that’s needed in the downtown corridor,” he said.

The new hotel, to be operated under the corporate name of Plati Niagara, will include 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of first-floor retail space on the Rainbow Boulevard side of the building, Strangio said.

That wasn’t enough retail space to trigger the new state IDA law’s prohibition on aid to most retail projects, IDA counsel Mark J. Gabriele said.

Under the law, a project is considered retail only if more than one-third of the floor space is devoted to retailing.

Construction could start this fall, with the hotel opening in early 2015, Strangio said. It would employ the equivalent of 28 full-time workers, and the tax breaks would save an estimated $1.5 million over 10 years.

Meanwhile, John Cummings, vice president of a new out-of-state company called Power Greenhouse Integration, requested a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, setup for his firm’s purchase of a hydroponic tomato greenhouse at 7341 Shawnee Road, Wheatfield.

The company, incorporated in Jacksonville, Fla., but expected to be headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., plans to invest $424 million in the project, including the construction of a co-generation power plant at the greenhouse.

A second greenhouse covering about 6 acres could be built on the 42-acre site, which includes wetlands, Cummings said.

The existing 12.5-acre greenhouse is owned by Fortistar, which powers it with a 2-mile steam line from its co-generation power plant in North Tonawanda. Tomatoes were grown at the greenhouse until January.

“Fortistar has an interest in divesting that asset. We have an interest in acquiring it,” Cummings said.

He said if the deal closes quickly, Power Greenhouse Integration plans to grow vegetables year-round, starting with a crop of cucumbers this summer and adding tomatoes and leafy greens.

The company could employ 20 to 30 people this year, growing to as many as 100 within three years. The PILOT and sales tax break could save the company $1.95 million over 15 years, the IDA staff estimated.