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New and revived apartment projects proposed in Niagara Falls

Merani Hotel Group on Wednesday unveiled an $11.5 million plan to erect a four-story commercial and apartment building in Niagara Falls, across Buffalo Avenue from its DoubleTree hotel.

Also, a Queens developer presented plans Wednesday to revive an abandoned apartment building at Pine Avenue and Eighth Street in the Falls.

A Merani official described his company's project during Wednesday's Niagara County Industrial Development Agency meeting.

"We feel there's a need in this market for some high-end new apartments," said Michael Marsch, Merani's vice president of operations.

Plans call for 39 market-rate apartments on the upper three floors, with a Tim Hortons, a Jersey Mike's submarine sandwich shop and a Circle K convenience store on the ground floor.

The site at 402 Buffalo Ave., once the site of Nabisco's Niagara Falls offices, is a vacant lot that underwent a brownfield cleanup about three years ago.

There is little retail in the neighborhood despite the presence of half a dozen hotels and two large residential complexes, the Parkway Condominiums and the Jefferson Apartments, Marsch said.

Merani operates three hotels in Niagara Falls and two in Niagara Falls, Ont. It will seek a 10-year property tax break on the apartment building through the City of Niagara Falls.

The company went to the NCIDA Wednesday seeking exemptions from paying sales taxes on purchases of building materials and furnishings, as well as from the county mortgage recording tax. Those breaks would save Merani about $456,000, the NCIDA staff estimated.

The project is estimated to create 17 to 24 jobs within three years, Marsch said.

"It's a nice concept, having the retail below the apartments. You see that in a lot of places now," said William L. Ross, an NCIDA board member.

The Eleanor Apartments in 2011. (Photo courtesy of the Niagara Falls Assessor's Office)

The Eleanor Apartments, 704 Eighth St., have been vacant for many years. Developer Gary Aminov plans to buy the three-story, 24,000-square-foot building for $335,000. He told the NCIDA he would invest $1.95 million in renovations to create 25 market-rate apartments.

Aminov seeks a 15-year property tax abatement along with sales and mortgage tax exemptions. The incentives would save him $304,000 over 15 years, the NCIDA staff calculated. The equivalent of three full-time jobs would be created.

Tzemach Tzedek LLC of Brooklyn bought the building for $160,000 in 2011, and owes three years of back taxes, according to the Niagara County Treasurer's Office.

The NCIDA will schedule public hearings on both projects before voting on them at its April 10 meeting.

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