James Neiss/staff photographer Niagara Gazette, NY - Workers resurface the dirt parking lot at One Niagara Street, once the construction site of the failed AquaFalls under ground aquarium project.
The hole, for many, was a symbol of failure for Niagara Falls.
Forty-feet deep, the excavation on Rainbow Boulevard South took months to dig in 1999 and 6,000 tandem loads to fill seven years later.
On Friday, contractors paved over the site outside the former Occidental Chemical building where a failed development project to construct an underground aquarium was once touted by former Gov. George Pataki as “a vote of confidence in Western New York.”
Frank Parlato Jr., managing member of One Niagara, the limited liability corporation that owns the building, described the paving work Friday as a momentous occasion.
“There is no more remnants of a precarious, notorious and obnoxious hole once known as the Aquapit,” he said. “It’s gone.”
Parlato said he will resume using the site as a paid parking lot in conjunction with a food and souvenir attraction he will operate again on the first floor of the nine-story glass building, which sits just outside the entrance of the Niagara Falls State Park and the Rainbow Bridge. It received a certificate of occupancy to reopen on Friday after being condemned during the winter months, Parlato said.
The site was paved Friday with a chip seal surface. Parlato said the workers will return in two weeks to put a top coat on the parking lot, which he plans to landscape with a “splash of color and flora.”
“I’m going to make it look like a property worthy of welcoming people to the United States,” he said.
The building has been the subject of complaints from Niagara Falls City Council members and tourism leaders during the last two summers as work to fill the excavation and pave the site took slower than Parlato initially anticipated.
One Niagara bought the building through foreclosure in late 2004. The hole was dug by its previous owner.
In 2005, the city cited Parlato for six code violations on the property, including a cracked sidewalk related to the excavation and a paid parking lot the city claimed was illegal. The matter is still in court, and a Lockport City Court judge said earlier this week he would rule on a motion to dismiss the charges May 29.
Chris Mazur, the city’s assistant corporation counsel, depicted the city’s dealings with Parlato during the last two years as an ongoing struggle. Last summer, the city signed a settlement with Parlato, but the document was never submitted to the court.
“Every time we tried to get to a point where we’d bring it to the court, the defendant wouldn’t do something else he was required to do,” Mazur said.