New York state reveals $12 million plan to revitalize Niagara Falls

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Rendering from Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU)

New York Construction Report staff writer

Two projects have been announced to transform Niagara Falls and attract development to the downtown.

The Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways project includes five public gateway features and the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has authorized the Aquarium of Niagara to manage operations at the currently closed Niagara Gorge Discovery Center.

Construction will now start on transforming the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center into Great Lakes 360 — an exciting new space for Great Lakes-focused exhibits.

The $12 million Niagara Falls Heritage Gateway project focuses on the northern and southern ends of a proposed downtown Niagara Falls heritage path.” New York-based firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) has been selected to lead the design.

“We’re thrilled to continue our work with New York State in Niagara Falls with an expanded team including landscape architects Hargreaves Jones,” said Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) founder and creative director Vishaan Chakrabarti. “The Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways Project is a chance to demonstrate how thoughtful design can restore rather than remake our cities in collaboration with the local community.

“Public infrastructure is at the center of successful urbanism—we applaud New York State for championing public spaces and architecture that connect us to our narratives, to our environment, and to one another.”

The scope of the Gateways Project will include:

  • Reinterpreting a stretch of the historic Niagara Falls Power Company’s hydraulic canal as an engaging public plaza that illustrates the history of large-scale electricity production and its effects on the American society in its design.
  • Constructing an observation deck along the border of Niagara Falls State Park, accessible from Buffalo Avenue and linked via stairway to the park itself, with panoramic views of the American Rapids and Goat Island. The design will preserve existing tree coverage and provide opportunities for outdoor seating.
  • Transforming DiFranco Park into a multi-use pavilion for outdoor performances, recreation and public gathering spaces, in partnership with the City of Niagara Falls.
  • Creating a pocket park at the corner of Buffalo Avenue and 1st Street that will provide respite and activate the streetscape.
  • Establishing an interpretive park at the Cataract House Hotel historic site.

The $5 million Great Lakes 360 project will be a living museum that highlights the notable wildlife of the Niagara River and the larger Great Lakes ecosystem while celebrating the area’s unique geological history. The project’s focus on accessible exhibit design will transform the building into a one-stop destination where visitors of all ages and abilities can experience the ecological story of the region all year round. The completed project will increase the number of living exhibits at the Aquarium by 40 percent.

Great Lakes 360 is fully funded following a recently announced $1 million capital grant from Market NY and a $675,000 ESD grant.

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