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9-23-04
Queen St. revival is near, Salci says

By Corey Larocque
Review Staff Writer

Niagara Falls - A plan to revitalize the downtown area with a "very, very quaint historic atmosphere," speciality shopping and live theatre is close at hand, says Mayor Ted Salci.

"We have a plan underway with a developer," Salci said in question and answer session at the public library Wednesday.

"My intent is to rebuild the downtown core," Salci said. "It doesn't happen overnight and it has been a priority."

There has been talk for several years of investor Mordecai Grunn and partners gradually buying options on properties along Queen Street with a plan to turn it into a row of speciality shops.

Salci also said he would like to see TV Niagara, a proposed local TV station led by Wendell Wilks, base its studios in downtown Niagara Falls if the company gets a broadcasting license.

Downtown revitalization was one of a dozen topics the mayor touched on as he fielded questions at a Niagara Falls Citizens for Democracy meeting.

The group was created a few years ago in a failed bid to keep the city's ward system. He got a warm reception from the 75 people at the meeting, many of whom were involved in his campaign last year.

He explained he cast the deciding vote in favour of the 58-storey Hilton hotel this year because he's a "pragmatic person".

Working through the joint city-Niagara Parks Commission peer review panel, they got developer Vince DiCosimo to change the original design of the building, making it more slender.

If council had turned it down the city might have lost out on the $1-million contribution DiCosimo had offered the community projects, Salci said.

The mayor also gave updates on the $5.4 million sewage refund the region owes Niagara Falls due to a billing error in the city's favour.

A direct refund to residents would give a family of four a maximum of $140 because large commercial accounts would receive 43 per cent of the $5.4 million.

Salci said he'd still like to explore the idea of using that $5.4 million to leverage matching amounts from the federal and provincial governments through an infrastructure improvement program.

He answered a question about the status of a value-for-money audit of ctiy spending, saying council is expecting another report on what type of audit to do and how much to invest in it, before proceeding.

A value-for-money audit was a campaign promise Salci made a year ago.

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