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One Niagara pays Niagara Falls $1.6 million in back taxes

NIAGARA FALLS – The owners of a key piece of downtown real estate today fulfilled a deal with the city by paying about $1.6 million in back taxes.

One Niagara LLC brought a check for $1,627,572.01 to the city’s law department in City Hall just before noon, and the money was deposited with no apparent problems, City Controller Maria C. Brown said.

The company, which owns the One Niagara building at 360 Rainbow Blvd., also paid $57,186.78 for its current school taxes, Brown said.

The city and the current and previous owners of the property have for years fought over the property’s assessment and site plan issues. No taxes have been paid on the property since 2008. As of mid-February, the company owed $2.3 million in back taxes, meaning the city will not receive all of the taxes owed since ongoing lawsuits are expected to end.

“I’m glad this is done,” One Niagara’s Tony Farina said by phone after the check was delivered. The City Council approved a settlement with the company last week. A prior settlement agreement lapsed earlier when the company failed to meet two payment deadlines.

One Niagara officials have said clearing up the legal disputes will allow further investment in the high-profile property, which sits across from Niagara Falls State Park and is one of the first buildings seen by those crossing into the United States over the Rainbow Bridge.

Attorney Paul A. Grenga and business partner Lawrence Reger bought the property in 2010. The nine-story building houses food and souvenir vendors, a Native American dance show and offices. The property also utilizes its outdoor space as a paid parking lot.

The settlement payment covers all taxes, penalties and interest for tax rolls prior to July 1, 2009. It also covers taxes from July 2009 through this year, based on an assessment of $1 million. There had been an ongoing dispute over the assessed value of the property, which had been as high as $4.7 million from 2006 through 2008.

Under the deal, the deadline for payment had been the end of Tuesday.

Brown, the city controller, stressed that the funding paid to the city is not a windfall of cash, but had been previously budgeted as a receivable in prior years’ budgets.

While the city is also writing off a portion of what was owed, the payment will improve the city’s cash flow, she said.

“This isn’t any new money,” she said.