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Hotel Niagara sold, tax break sought for renovation

NIAGARA FALLS – The historic but long-vacant Hotel Niagara is being sold again, and the new owners are seeking a tax break from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency to assist them in a $27 million purchase and renovation.

That request will be introduced at Wednesday’s IDA meeting, along with a proposal to construct a new Hampton Inn on the Pendleton side of South Transit Road, just south of Lockport.

The Hotel Niagara deal is being proposed by Reception Hotels and Resorts, a company formed in December and headquartered in Monsey, Rockland County. However, the principals, including CEO Matthew Shollar, appear to be from Pittsburgh. Shollar, who could not be reached Saturday, is a partner in GreatStay Hospitality Partners, which last year bought four Pittsburgh-area Holiday Inns. Another firm of his, 980 Liberty Partners, tried to build a hotel atop an African-American cultural center in Pittsburgh, but was bought out of the deal by a city agency.

All three Shollar firms are registered in Monsey, at the home address of venture capitalist Akiva N. Feinsod.

Reception plans to buy the hotel at 201 Rainbow Blvd. from JSK International, controlled by Canadian businessman Harry Stinson, for $4.4 million.

The Reception plan is to plow about $21.5 million into an extreme makeover of the 91-year-old hotel, producing a 200-room, four-star hotel with 30,000 square feet of event space and a food and beverage outlet.

The company hopes to begin construction in July and open the hotel in June 2016.

“The interior of the hotel will be refinished while the historic nature of the exterior will be preserved,” the application says.

The company is seeking a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement that would limit property taxes and exempt it from paying sales tax on building materials or furnishings for the hotel. The IDA staff estimates that the incentives will save Reception more than $3.1 million over the next decade.

The company’s application to the IDA estimates the hotel will offer 70 full-time and 85 part-time jobs within three years, with an annual payroll of nearly $4.8 million.

“This group looks to be the group that’s basically going to do the hotel and get the darn thing done,” IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said Saturday.

He said Stinson had been looking to Reception Hotels for financing for his own Hotel Niagara renovation plan, which had not moved forward. In January, IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said at a board meeting that he was concerned about the lack of action in the wake of the agency granting Stinson’s company a PILOT in 2012.

Stinson had announced a deal with Niagara County Community College in January to house students from the college’s culinary institute in the hotel, but Gabriele said that deal is dead because of the sale to Reception.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Patel, who has done two previous Hampton Inn deals with the IDA in Niagara Falls, is planning a 72-room, four-story Hampton at 6082 S. Transit Road in Pendleton, across from the Woodlands mobile home park. The site now contains a house owned by Raymond E. Ruhlmann III of Lockport

Patel, whose family also owns the Comfort Inn in Lockport, is planning a $5.65 million project, with the Hampton Inn targeted to open in November 2016. The application says it would create nine full-time and 11 part-time jobs. A 10-year PILOT and sales tax exemption would save the Patel family’s company, Neelkanth Hotel LLC, an estimated $750,000 over 10 years.