With the exception of a casino, the deterioration of the downtown area of Niagara Falls over the past few decades has been well documented. Buffalrising.com reported in an article back on Feb. 29th, 2008, that the beautiful Wintergarden building on Rainbow Boulevard had become a victim of that deterioration, and was been assigned to the demolition crews.
As the 2008 article by David Steele explained: “the Winter Garden was built across the axis, creating a dead-ended dead mall [the Rainbow Mall], and that is basically what has sealed its death warrant. Sitting astride the main path from the Falls to downtown, this elegant white elephant is now scheduled for demolition to open up this axis and make way for new development”. The hapless landmark building, which was designed by Cesar Pelli, has had the unlucky lot of being built in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is currently being brought down piece by piece.”
However, there may be some good news for this unique structure. According to an article by Denise Jewell Gee for the Buffalo News published on June 12th of this year, the contractors who have been charged with demolishing the Wintergarden have been contacted by “interested developers”, who would like to buy pieces of the structure’s steel frame to reassemble elsewhere. Gee writes that George Churakos, President of Mark Cerrone Inc. (the company doing the demolition), has said that the Wintergarden building “will be dismantled in a way so that it can be reassembled in some form if a buyer is found. He said he could not reveal who has expressed interest in the steel frame, but said the building’s design has driven the interest”.
Gee also reports that at the moment about half the building’s windows have been removed. After the windows have been removed, the building will undergo asbestos abatement and then the structure’s steel frame will begin to be dismantled. The demolition project is supposed to be completed either in late July or early August.
The building’s demolition is part of the USA Niagara Development Corp.’s West Mall project, which, according to Gee, should “extend Old Falls Street from Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel”. She quotes USA Niagara President Christopher J. Schoepflin as saying, “We think the spirit of the West Mall project is to reactivate what is historically the prime east-west access to downtown Niagara Falls and, for the first time in a generation, to truly create the interaction between the park and the city.”
The West Mall project is expected to help revitalize Niagara Falls. As Buffalorising.com’s article from February 2008 states:
“Niagara Falls, New York officials and civic leaders have looked over the gorge longingly at the booming Canadian side as a new skyline sprung up virtually overnight. After decades of neglect and mismanagement of the tourism industry on the New York side, Niagara Falls civic leaders are once again talking about initiating changes to make it the major travel destination they believe it can and should be.” That Niagara Falls needs to make some changes if it is going to see any improvement to its tourist industry is a fact no one can argue with. It’s a shame though that this wonderful building which has stood since 1977 had to go down in order for those changes to take place. Hopefully, whoever buys the Wintergarden’s frame and puts it to use will find a way to do the building justice in its new role.
Wintergarden on the Buffalo waterfront, anyone?
Lead image courtesy WNY Heritage.