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Drop Goat Island Lodge Idea and Redevelop Schoelkopf Hall

When Governor Andrew M. Cuomo made his second regional State of the State address in Buffalo and announced his proposal for a $500 million expansion of the Buffalo Billion initiative, he announced a few changes on Goat Island:

On Goat Island we will create a year-round destination for tourism and build a world-class lodge with sweeping views of the Niagara River.

ESD will also be issuing an RFP to build greater outdoor activities on Goat Island that will boost tourism and give people an international destination to visit.

Any construction in the State Park is going to be controversial. The Niagara Gazette takes note:

The governor’s grandiose scheme for the lodge is virtually bound to draw opposition from groups like Buffalo Niagara Preservation and the Buffalo-based Olmsted Parks Conservancy who have consistently raised concerns about any dramatic changes to the island landscape.

Local history specialist Paul Gromosiak appeared stunned by Cuomo’s proposal. “It’s insane. He needs to read about Olmsted’s vision when the state park was established in 1885, and how Goat Island was to be kept as much as possible in its native state. If they want another hotel, let them build downtown,” Gromosiak said, noting that nothing large should ever be built that will detract from the views of all the natural beauty the island now offers millions of annual visitors.

There is another option. From NYC007 on Skyscraper City:

I think it’s great that Governor Cuomo is showing such interest in Niagara Falls, and I really like a lot of ideas the state is having lately for economic and tourism development. I’m not even opposed to the idea the state announced of building a hotel, or a “lodge,” on Goat Island. The only issue I have with it is that New York State already owns an historic building in Deveaux State Park, Schoelkopf Hall, which would make an awesome lodge. No need to build new, when they could restore a part of the city’s proud history.

I could easily see this with a farm-to-table restaurant, featuring New York State produce and agricultural products and a wine bar featuring New York State wine. There could be an inn above the restaurant, with a partnership with students from Niagara County Community College’s hospitality program. This just seems like an obvious thing, considering it would give people a destination if they’re going to use that huge park, since this is located at the very far end. It would encourage use of the park, as well as use of the train station, since people could get off the train and walk or take a short taxi ride to this hotel. Residents would benefit from this as well. Letchworth State Park has the Glen Iris Inn, so this wouldn’t be unprecedented.

Many people don’t realize that Niagara Fall’s premiere residential neighborhood, Deveaux, is named for the DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children which was constructed in 1855. When the prep school closed, Niagara University used some of the buildings until the early 1980s, when most of the original buildings (except two) were demolished. New York State acquired the campus in 2001 and designated it Deveaux Woods State Park.

This building sits along the State’s $42 million project to remove the former Robert Moses Parkway from the rim of the Niagara Gorge and create a 140-acre park for hiking and recreation. It’s also walking distance to the brand new $43 million train station.

As NYC007 mentions, the DeVeaux proposal builds upon other work underway in the Falls.

Including the recently-opened Doubletree Hotel, downtown Niagara Falls has five new hotels recently completed or currently under construction and one hotel renovation/retail expansion project, totaling nearly 600 new rooms and more than $90 million in total project costs. The state’s USA Niagara Development Corporation has also acquired the historic Hotel Niagara for future development and is working on a development agreement for the Wonder Falls Resort, a proposed adaptive reuse of the former Rainbow Centre Mall that has a hotel component.

New York State is also investing more than $60 million in infrastructure improvements for the Niagara Scenic Parkway. The southern section (Riverway Project), with full completion expected in spring 2017, includes $20 million to restore access to the waterfront and in Niagara Falls State Park by removing a mile of former elevated expressway that once stood between the city and the upper Niagara River.

The northern section involves removal of an underutilized two-mile segment from Main Street to Findlay Drive at the edge of DeVeaux Woods State Park to be replaced with open space, scenic overlooks and recreational trails to make the waterfront more accessible. The $42 million project marks the largest expansion of green space since the Niagara Reservation was designed in 1885 and will link the Niagara River Gorge and Falls into a single destination to allow easier access to the water’s edge.

Entry image by Sean Hillman.  Winter image by Winnie.

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