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Legislature to consider exterior makeover for NCCC culinary institute

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature will be asked Tuesday to appropriate $270,000 from the county’s surplus to pay for a new south side facade at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, operated by Niagara County Community College.

NCCC President James P. Klyczek said the county is being asked to pay the whole tab for the project, which will cut new doors in the wall to give the student-run restaurant and pastry shop, as well as the cooking-themed Barnes & Noble bookstore, their own entrances off the sidewalk. Klyczek noted that the county paid only $1.5 million of the original $25 million for the institute.

The project at the former Rainbow Mall has been discussed for about two years, Klyczek said.

Contractors will have to dig a trench where the sidewalk is now located in order to lower the concrete about 18 inches to accommodate direct-entry doors in the glass-panel wall. At present, there is a single central door to the building.

“It is what we had initially planned on doing, to make storefronts for the various retail entities,” Klyczek said. When the $25 million building was being erected, the college elected to complete all the labs inside the building and let the exterior plans slide because of limited funds.

“We made the judgment call to go ahead and finish everything inside, and on the outside, we finished it off the way we did. It didn’t allow us to do all the signage and exterior lighting and some of that stuff to make them separate entities,” Klyczek said. “Now what we’re trying to do is basically finish off the exterior.”

It’s hoped that calling more attention to what’s inside the building may lure tourists to patronize the shops and the restaurant.

“Tourists don’t know that we’re there, really. Locals know we’re there because they know the history of what was there, but tourists are walking by and don’t even look in,” Klyczek said.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, who serves on the NCCC board of trustees, said the work will “make it look more like a restaurant, to appeal to tourists more. A lot of people just thought it was a school, period.”

With the grade of the sidewalk lowered and leveled, Klyczek said, “It’ll kind of look like a New York City storefront in a sense that you’re having to walk down two steps to be at grade to get into the store itself,” Klyczek said.

Railings will be installed, as well as a refacing of the glass facade. The pastry shop and bakery will have a wood-grain look, while Barnes & Noble will have a brick look in between its windows, along with awnings carrying the Barnes & Noble logo.

To the left of the main door, the deli is basically at grade now. Klyczek said it will get its own entrance and sign, and perhaps space for an outdoor table or two. The restaurant will have new signage and an outside menu board.

“You can enter from the outside or the inside. We’re not really touching the center entrance,” Klyczek said. That could change depending on the final design of the proposed Wonder Falls resort project at the mall.

“We’ll share that entrance with whatever ends up behind us,” Klyczek said.

Bidding has already been completed, and Klyczek said work may begin in early April and finish by mid-May.