Cordish Companies Donate Rainbow Centre & Neighboring Parcel to Niagara County Community College Foundation
September 17, 2015
Niagara County Community College Foundation Chairperson Deborah Brewer announced tonight at the NCCC Foundation Scholarship Gala that the Cordish Companies is donating the downtown Niagara Falls Rainbow Centre as well as the parcel of land at the corner of Rainbow Boulevard and Old Falls Street to the College's Foundation. The gift is the largest in the twenty-three year history of the NCCC Foundation and believed to be the largest ever given to a SUNY Community College.
"We are overwhelmed by the generosity of David Cordish and the Cordish Group in the awarding of the Rainbow Centre and the neighboring lot to the NCCC Foundation," said Foundation Chairperson Deborah Brewer. "This is the largest single donation ever made to our Foundation and I cannot overstate the significance of the impact a donation such as this has on all our board members who work tirelessly to raise funds for student scholarships."
College president Dr. James Klyczek and the 10-member Executive Committee of the Foundation Board of Directors worked with the Foundation attorneys over several weeks to finalize the very complicated legal procedures involved in the various transactions that will be necessary to convey the properties. Representatives from USA Niagara, the local agency representing the Empire State Development Corporation, and officials from Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's office have been intimately involved in developing an agreement.
"The awarding of the Rainbow Centre and surrounding property to the NCCC Foundation greatly empowers the College to facilitate its mission of providing a teaching and learning environment dedicated to excellence," said NCCC Board of Trustee Chairperson Bonnie Gifford. "This is an example of the cooperation and combined vision of the College's Foundation Board and the College's Board of Trustees," added Gifford.
"This gift facilitates the development of our long sought Hospitality and Tourism Center and related Culinary Institute" said President Klyczek. While the actual dollar value of the contribution has yet to be determined it will be the largest gift ever donated to the NCCC Foundation according to Klyczek. "In the opinion of experts with whom we have consulted, this is likely the most valuable property in Niagara Falls and perhaps even the entire Western New York Area. The proximity of the land to the Niagara Falls State Park, the Falls and the Rainbow Bridge to Canada is unequalled. If asked to put a number on this donation I'd have to use the terminology we use with some of our auction items at the Gala tonight – priceless! We would be steps away from the majestic Niagara Falls, have incredible parking available and amazing foot traffic in front of our building. Locating our Hospitality and Tourism Center in the Falls was determined years ago, but this location couldn't be better. The experiences our students can receive at such a location encountering tourists from all over the world is just unmatchable. There is no way our Foundation or our College could possibly afford to purchase these properties and we certainly couldn't secure enough funding to build a new structure this size – in my view, the value is astronomical and incalculable."
"I would speak for both Chairwoman Brewer and Chairwoman Gifford in saying that the NCCC Foundation can serve as a vehicle to advance not only the College's excellent academic programs and experiences for students and faculty, but also advance the economic development of the city of Niagara Falls is amazing to all of us," said Klyczek.
David Cordish made the offer of the properties after negotiations with the city and USA Niagara had been unsuccessful. "Cordish acknowledged that all involved had genuinely worked hard to separate a third of the mall at a reasonable price so the College could move its culinary program there," said Klyczek. Cordish then decided to gift the properties to the College after meetings with Klyczek and some of the College trustees over the last 16 months. "Mr. Cordish called me late one evening and asked if I really wanted the property? Was the College really going to build what I had described to him? I said of course, in fact the project continues to generate support and we're excited working with USA Niagara and the City," continued Klyczek. Klyczek said David Cordish then said "You know I love Niagara Falls or we wouldn't have been there for almost 30 years. What you want to do there is very impressive, and I am behind you a 100%." "I was stunned" said Klyczek. "I called Chris Schoeplin, President of USA Niagara and he thought I was kidding."
There are still numerous hurdles for the gift to come to fruition. Because of the complicated arrangement at the Rainbow Center Mall, both the City of Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency (NFURA), and N.F.C. Development Corporation (N.F.C.) and additionally the Niagara Falls City Council have to agree to allow Mayor Paul Dyster to release the Cordish Company from it's leasehold contract with the city. The property at 310 Rainbow Boulevard is a fee simple deed and much more easily conveyed to the Foundation.
"I also cannot say enough about the involvement of Dennis Mullen, Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation," added President Klyczek. "The leadership demonstrated by Dennis and his support and commitment to Niagara, the College, and the project has been an inspiration. There is still more work to do but with ESDC and USA Niagara as partners the project has an excellent chance of completion."
All three public entities are meeting Monday May 18th to review details to be provided by City Attorney Craig Johnson and Mayor Dyster.
Niagara County Community College intends to use as much of the space at the mall property as necessary for developing and operating its hospitality and tourism programs and related culinary institute. "We estimate that space to be around 70,000 square feet, with the need for access stairwells, hallways and so on connected to the parking structure," Klyczek said. "It is the Foundation Board's intent to turn the remainder of the property over to the City for their development efforts being coordinated with Chris Schoeplin, President of USA Niagara".
Once those agreements are reached the College Board of Trustees must finalize the location of the programs at the Rainbow Center and ultimately the Niagara County Legislature must approve the deal and ultimately hold title to the property that will be used by the College. "Legislators are still being brought up to speed on the project" said NCCC Board of Trustee Chairperson Bonnie Gifford. "Everyone is aware of how many twists and turns there have been in this project and while we are all certainly excited and energized, we are also cautious and respectful of the concerns of the legislature in such a large endeavor."