Party Time on Clifton Hill

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The Niagara Falls Review ran an article on the proposed developments on Clifton Hill today. The article mentions two waterparks (one indoor, one outdoor), roller coasters, a ferris wheel and a 28 storey hotel.

The proposal goes before city council this Monday, May 30 as we had mentioned in a previous post.

Party time on Clifton Hill
HOCO seeks city approval for rides, parks, new hotel

By COREY LAROCQUE Review Staff Writer
Local News – Saturday, May 28, 2005 @ 02:00

NIAGARA FALLS – Roller coasters, a ferris wheel and two water parks would take Clifton Hill’s “festive atmosphere” to a new level if HOCO Entertainment and Resorts gets city council’s approval to build up to 20 amusement park rides, says Harry Oakes, the company’s president.

“We’ve looked at the whole market in Niagara Falls. We’ve picked our niche,” Oakes said Friday. His company already concentrates on attracting families and fun-seeking couples.

“We just want to improve on what we do.”

HOCO has asked city hall for a zoning bylaw amendment to build up to 20 amusements park rides and a 28-storey hotel along the top of the escarpment between Clifton Hill and Robinson Street. That parcel of land is 12.5 hectares (31 acres) and represents what one report calls “Niagara Falls’ most important underdeveloped site.”

The site isn’t big enough for a full-size amusement park like Marineland or Canada’s Wonderland. Oakes describes his proposal as a family entertainment centre, a “right-sized version for Clifton Hill.”

It’s modelled after Tivoli Gardens, a 160-year-old downtown amusement park in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Rides would be installed on the site’s north end, toward Clifton Hill. The 28-storey hotel and two water parks (one indoor, one outdoor) would be built closer to Robinson Street.

Ferris wheels have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since the London Eye was built as a millennium project in England. Roller coasters are “timeless” attractions, said Oakes.

Both appeal to families who have visited the falls in the day and are looking for at night entertainment, Oakes said.

Only the proposed 294-room Comfort Suites hotel and the 54-metre Ferris wheel would be visible above the treeline.

“You really only see the top 25 per cent of it when you’re in the park, due to the trees,” Oakes said.

HOCO already owns most of the property on the south side of Clifton Hill, where numerous attractions already operate, including the Great Canadian Midway and the Boston Pizza restaurant. Oakes opened them in 2002 and sees the family entertainment centre as a chance to expand on their success, he said.

City council is scheduled to debate HOCO’s zoning application at a planning meeting Monday night at City Hall. The city’s planning department recommends council approve the project, with some technical changes to the zoning bylaw. The city’s architectural peer review panel is largely satisfied with the project, but wants proof that the hotel won’t affect wind patterns, a report states. But the Niagara Parks Commission has concerns about proposed changes to the Jolley Cut area and doesn’t support it without discussing some changes.

The entire project would require an investment of $100 million and would see the companies total number of employees increase to about 1,250 from 750 now, Oakes said.

If council approves the project Monday, HOCO would gear up immediately and be ready to start construction of the first phase in October with the goal of opening it next April, Oakes said.

Jay Cochrane to Return

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Jay Cochrane, famous for his tight rope walking, will once again be performing in Niagara Falls this summer. He will be performing his act between the Niagara Fallsview Casino and the Hilton Hotel and on Saturdays will perform the longest and highest skywalk performed outside of China, from the Niagara Fallsview Casino to the top of the Skylon Tower, beginning June 17. The Saturday walk of 1800 feet and a height of 400 – 600 feet above ground is expected to take between 40 and 50 minutes to complete.

Jay Cochrane performed at Casino Niagara in 2002.

Zoning amendment application deferred

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On May 10 we mentioned an public meeting announcement had been posted between The House of Frankenstein and Ripley’s Moving Theater on Clifton Hill. Monday night the meeting was held and the request had been deferred while the city looks into how the applicant was able operate the proposed rides in an area for the past three years though that area was not zoned for them (the reason for the application), but was given a vendor’s license to do so.

We will update the status on this application when we find out.

Update on city meetings

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As we mentioned in a previous post, there was a town meeting held last night to discuss amendments to the zoning bylaw that would allow a 59 storey hotel and observation tower along with a 74,000 sqft water park on Falls Avenue.

The amendment to allow the hotel tower passed with a 5-1 vote while the amendment to allow the water park passed in council unanimously.

UPDATE:
The local cable company airs City Council meetings live on Monday nights. I was able to capture a few images from the television of the hotel and water park. As these are only screen captures recorded from a low quality source, the images are not superb, but they convey the look of the new developments.

Hotel from front looking up
Hotel from front looking up

Hotel and waterpark visible from back
Hotel and waterpark visible from back

Hotel view from the Unites States near the Rainbow Bridge
Hotel view from the United States near the Rainbow Bridge

The is the write up from the Niagara Falls Review about the hotel:

New hotel to tower above city

By COREY LAROCQUE
Local News – Tuesday, May 17, 2005 @ 02:00

NIAGARA FALLS – The 59-storey Rainbow Tower Hotel proposed for Falls Avenue would have a view of both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and be visible from Buffalo and Toronto, says architect Michael Kirkland.

“We glory in the size of it,” said Kirkland who designed the building for Canadian Niagara Hotels, saying it will take on “iconic” status.

“This is a building that will affect the skyline of Niagara Falls for a very long time,” Kirkland said during a planning meeting at city hall Monday night.

Council voted 5-1 in favour of the application from Canadian Niagara Hotels to build the $130-million hotel tower between the Sheraton-on-the-Falls and Brock Plaza hotels.

The proposed tower was designed as two buildings in one – a 48-storey, 550-room hotel attached to an observation tower that stands 751 feet tall, Kirkland said. It would have one storey more than the Hilton Niagara hotel expansion the city approved last year, but would be 57 metres taller than that hotel planned for Fallsview Boulevard.

It’s designed so the higher up it goes, its orientation rotates toward the Horseshoe Falls, said Kirkland.

“This building goes up and expresses the sheer gravitational pull of Niagara Falls,” he said.

Because of its design, it will also take different appearances – what Kirkland described as a lantern, torch or silhouette – depending on weather conditions, time of day and the light it reflects.

At 229 metres tall, the Rainbow Tower Hotel will be the city’s tallest building. But because of its placement, it will only cast shadows on property owned by Canadian Niagara Hotels, Kirkland said.

In a recorded vote, aldermen Wayne Campbell, Jim Diodati, Joyce Morocco, Victor Pietrangelo and Selina Volpatti approved the project.

Ald. Carolynn Ioannoni was the sole vote against. She said she wanted to support it, but needed more details on a provision that would have the company contribute to city projects in exchange for exceeding the height limit.

“I think this application is premature. I wanted to support it. There are too many questions,” Ioannoni said.

Acting mayor Vince Kerrio and Ald. Janice Wing did not vote because they declared conflicts of interest.

Canadian Niagara Hotels will pay between $1.3 million and $1.5 million to the city under a provision of the Planning Act that permits developers to exceed the city’s 30-storey height limit in exchange for cash contributions. That payment will be used to pay for public projects to be determined later.

Council also approved a request from Canadian Niagara Hotels to build an estimated $70-million waterpark on its property.

Ald. Victor Pietrangelo said Canadian Niagara’s investment in the hotel, tower and waterpark should send a “strong message” to the provincial government about the long-term vaule of Casino Niagara as a catalyst for development.

“We’re sending a message that we want to retain Casino Niagara. The developer is stepping up to the plate, saying, ‘I am willing to invest in this area if the province is willing to invest in the area,'” Pietrangelo said.

Michael DiCienzo whose company owns Canadian Niagara Hotels said he wants to see Casino Niagara in the area, but both projects make sense for his company on their own merits.

“We are doing what we feel is necessary from a business standpoint to redevelop our site regardless of the casino,” said DiCienzo said.

Another Development in the tourist core

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I was having dinner at Kelsey’s on Clifton Hill last night when I saw the following public notice posted across the street between House of Frankenstein and Ripley’s Moving Theater. This is the first time I saw this posting, though the meeting is next week.

We have been told this is a formality to allow them to erect the rides they had last year (a rock climbing wall and a slide) while providing future approval for 3 unstated mechanical rides.

Publc Meeting Notice for Amusement Rides

The City of Niagara Falls
Public Meeting
Date – May 16, 2005, 7:00 PM
Council Chambers, City Hall
4310 Queen Street, Niagara Falls
File – AM-48/2004
City Council will consider an applicaiton to change the zoning by-law for these lands, to permit
3 amusement type rides
Additional information and a copy of the written notice available by contacting the planning & development department
City Hall, 8:30 – 4:30, Telephone 356-7521

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