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State agency buys 1.2-acre lot in downtown Niagara Falls

The USA Niagara Development Corp. is using $1.1 million in Buffalo Billion II money to buy another vacant lot in downtown Niagara Falls.

The 1.2-acre site at 101 Buffalo Ave., owned by Frank Deni of the Falls, is the second acquisition in the neighborhood by the state agency, which was given $24 million to buy up vacant property in downtown Niagara Falls.

The local board of USA Niagara, part of Empire State Development, approved the deal. The agency announced that it intends to issue a request for proposals from would-be developers.

The site is called the former Porter property, because for most of the 19th century it belonged to the Porter family, which was prominent in the early history of the City of Niagara Falls. At one time in the late 19th century, it was part of Niagara Reservation State Park.

Deni bought it some 30 years ago in hopes that the downtown area would bounce back and make the property valuable for redevelopment. It's next to the American Rapids Bridge, which leads from First Street to Goat Island.

In November, USA Niagara bought another vacant Buffalo Avenue parcel. It paid $850,000 to Maid of the Mist Corp. for 305 Buffalo Ave., a 231-by-249-foot lot that the Maid had purchased in 2008 with the notion of constructing an office there. It never did.

Like the Maid parcel, the Deni parcel is part of the city's heritage zoning district. USA Niagara said that any eventual development there will comply with the zoning rules, which call for "an appropriate, low-density transition in scale between state parkland and adjacent downtown commercial districts," according to the city ordinance.

That means "relatively low building heights, sloped roofs (and) residential materials," the ordinance states.

The new acquisition is near the old Hotel Niagara, which USA Niagara purchased and turned over to a Syracuse company for renovation and reopening. It's also a short distance from the Conference & Events Center Niagara Falls, owned by the state agency.

The state's Downtown Strategic Land Acquisition program was announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in his 2017 State of the State address.

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