The decrepit condition of Main Street triggered Paul A. Dyster's first run for the Niagara Falls City Council in 1999.
Now, in his 12th and final year as mayor, Dyster predicts the removal of the Niagara Scenic Parkway along the Niagara River Gorge will spur Main Street's revival.
"With easy access to new hiking and biking trails and an expanded gorge-side park, the North End, after completion of the parkway project, will instantly become a magnet for investment and new home ownership," Dyster said during his final State of the City address Monday.
"That's a worthy round of applause," Dyster ad-libbed when his audience at Niagara Falls High School applauded. "It's only taken 20 years."
Removing part of the parkway along the upper Niagara River contributed to a commercial building boom in downtown Niagara Falls during his administration, he said.
"Developers built new hotels or reconstructed old ones, and homeowners quickly recognized the importance of direct access to the Niagara River," Dyster said. "North Main Street is going to develop in a much different way than downtown, but I fully expect a similar explosion of development to follow in the area adjacent to the removed section of the parkway."
Whirlpool Street, which runs parallel to the parkway and the gorge, is being reconstructed as a north-south artery, and Main Street is a block east of Whirlpool Street.
Dyster said the city's policy of seeking reuse and renovation of old buildings is bearing fruit. The most visible project, the planned revival of the Hotel Niagara by a Syracuse developer, is largely a state initiative, but the city has followed a similar playbook.
Canadian developers have been selected for two major makeovers. The Cannon Block at Third and Main streets is to be turned into a student housing complex by Penn Terra of St. Catharines, Ont., and the former Wendt's Dairy plant on Buffalo Avenue will be reopened within a year by LifeMax Natural Foods of Pickering, Ont., as a beverage plant.
Dyster said he's working to bring the new daily commuter rail service between Niagara Falls, Ont., and Toronto across the border. "Eventually, the U.S. side of Niagara Falls will be tied much more closely to the massive economic engine of Toronto," he said.
The mayor, who decided not to seek a fourth term, vowed that his administration will remain active, pointing to Tuesday's scheduled announcement of a new public bicycle rental service to begin this spring.