Amherst, NY (December 6, 2019) — Uniland Development Company today announced that it will no longer pursue the Wonder Falls Resort development at the former Rainbow Centre Mall in Niagara Falls, New York, after determining that the project is not economically feasible due to circumstances beyond its control.
“It’s project economics,” said Uniland Vice President Michael Montante. “We pushed through many roadblocks over the years but, in the end, the project simply cannot be sustainable given the required costs.”
Since being named designated developer of the Mall by USA Niagara Development Corporation (USAN), the local arm of Empire State Development (ESD), Uniland has spent countless resources performing due diligence including site analysis, market studies, design schematics, meeting with potential operators, and refining the resort’s scope to create a project that is successful for all stakeholders. Wonder Falls Resort was to provide a year-round, extended-stay attraction and a much-needed boost for the City’s tourism market by offering an indoor water attraction, hotel, restaurants and family-focused entertainment. The original project cost estimate was $150 million.
The State pledged Buffalo Billion taxpayer-based funding to assist with the capital costs of Wonder Falls. However, a change last year in a tax law subjected the State’s assistance to federal income tax significantly reduced the funds available to support the project. Both Uniland and ESD attempted to mitigate the significant negative effect to the project’s bottom line to no avail.
“The project team and I are disappointed that the years we spent developing and championing this project will not result in Wonder Falls coming to life,” said Montante. “We have consistently maintained that we are responsible stewards of public funds. In this case, the economics do not make sense and the prudent and proper decision was to end the process. As forces such as political policies and economic conditions shifted, so did the viability of the concept.”
Kellena Kane, Uniland’s Director of Development, led the Wonder Falls concept and planning team.
“It’s always difficult when projects we believe in and work so diligently on don’t come to fruition. Because this one was announced with such fan-fare and involved the potential investment of taxpayer dollars, we understand that the public will also feel let down,” Kane said.
ESD today confirmed that State funds are still allocated for the Mall’s redevelopment and it will pursue a public sector improvement project instead. Uniland believes in the City of Niagara Falls’ potential with the continued investment by the public and private sector. Uniland welcomes the opportunity to work with USAN, ESD and the City on future projects.
“Our goal as a community is to make Niagara Falls, New York, a world-class destination,” said Montante.
Uniland would like to thank the project’s supporters and the State for its willingness to work with the Uniland team during the development process.