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MAY 12 - MAY 19, 2015

Buffalo Fight Between Uniland and Delaware North Could Doom Wonder Falls Project

By Tony Farina

May 12, 2015

The escalating tension between Uniland and Delaware North at the downtown Buffalo construction site of the new Delaware North 12-story world headquarters building will likely delay completion of the project until August of 2016, a year behind schedule, according to informed sources.

In addition to the delay in the completion of the heavily subsidized $80 million Buffalo project at Main and Chippewa, for which the two giant companies received close to $8 million in tax breaks, their serious differences have likely put a dagger into their partnership in the $150-million Wonder Falls project in Niagara Falls at the Rainbow Mall.

A prominent Buffalo developer said of the Wonder Falls project, "it was nothing but a press release from the beginning, and now it is dead."

What a press hit it was last August when Gov. Andrew Cuomo, surrounded by his loyal development aides including Empire State's Sam Hoyt and USA Niagara's Chris Schoepflin, announced that Uniland had been selected to lead the development consortium that included Delaware North to rebuild and transform the former Rainbow Centre Shopping Mall. Also on hand, of course, was doting Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster who has been desperately loyal to the governor in the hopes of landing a big project like Wonder Falls for his ailing city.

The Wonder Falls Resort would save the day for Niagara Falls, the state said, even if it took $75 million in public dollars, as it now turns out to be the number, to make it happen, or half of the $150 million total cost. It was a big reward for Delaware North and Uniland which have both contributed heavily to the Cuomo war chest.

But like the much-hyped Hamister Hotel project across the street from the Rainbow Mall, another heavily state-backed savior project for Niagara Falls by another political contributor, the Wonder Falls may be even further from reality with the ongoing tension between Delaware North and Uniland which sources say is likely to derail any future partnership.

As usual, Empire State Development did not respond to our calls seeking comment on the state of the two Niagara Falls projects, and at the Buffalo site where work is continuing between the warring parties, a new sign of discontent is evident with the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters protesting the presence of non-union carpenters on the work site, signaling their displeasure with a giant sign stretching across the front of the work site facing east on Delaware Ave. Labor disputes are nothing new at work sites, but this one comes in the middle of a different kind of dispute between the big guys.

Surrounding the uncertainty of the Wonder Falls project, where the state and city officials have said hardly a word since last August, a major Canadian hotel developer, Michael DiCienzo continues to make noise about the selection by the state of Delaware North and Uniland for the Rainbow Mall project and we will get his side of the story in future editions.

Meanwhile, work is a year behind at Delaware and Chippewa in Buffalo where Delaware North plans to add 65 high-paying jobs to go along with the 350 employees it currently employs in its global offices at Key Center, just a few blocks away. In addition, there will be an estimated 40 new jobs for the new hotel, retail and parking garage. But all the rosy predictions came before Delaware North and the developer, Uniland, took off the gloves and got into it at the work site on everything from design and materials to cost overruns. It was supposed to be a match made in heaven between the two giants, but it appears to have collapsed along the way, according to insiders privy to the dispute.

For Niagara Falls, the joy of last August's big announcement has come crashing down as there is no sign of any work at Wonder Falls coming any time soon and the two potential partners are slugging it out in Buffalo. Like with the Hamister Hotel project, the state's promises often don't hold up, especially in the Cataract City.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina