For the past five years it’s been the only noticeable work done on the once fabled AquaFalls project — it’s also become synonymous with every bad development deal the city has ever made.
“It’s been a joke, but it’s no joke,” Mayor Vince Anello said. “It’s turned from just talking about a hole to a very noticeable scar.”
That scar could be removed sometime before Memorial Day, thanks to Developer Frank Parlato Jr. the Town of Niagara and a very large pile of dirt and debris left over from the town’s massive sewer project during the 1970s.
In recent years, Councilman Marc Carpenter said, town officials began thinking about getting rid of the pile that sits just east of the town’s highway garage off of Lockport Road.
“We want to spruce up the area around town hall,” he said.
In order to remove the pile of debris, estimated at about 50,000 cubic yards by Parlato, Niagara town officials were looking at a $3.98 charge per cubic yard — or a $207,388 bill.
Parlato, who now owns the former AquaFalls property, will pay the town about 1 cent per cubic yard. The deal was facilitated by Anello.
“We’re glad we waited,” Carpenter said. “Now we’re able to help someone else out — and do it very inexpensively.”
Anello agreed, calling the cooperation between the town and city a good sign.
“The point is this,” Parlato added, “it’s a perfect fit. It was just the right amount to fill up a certain hole that people around here affectionately call ‘the pit.’ ”
The mound has been tested by the Department of Environmental Conservation, Parlato said, but further tests are needed. He’s hoping to have the pit filled before the start of the summer tourist season.
“We want to have it finished by Memorial Day,” he said.
It’s been about 5 1/2 years since AquaFalls was announced to great fanfare.
Ground was broken on the project on Aug. 18, 1999. More than 150 people gathered that day, on the plaza in front of what has also been known as the “Hooker Building,” for a ground breaking that was touted at the time as the first step in the city's renaissance.
Shortly after excavating the plaza, the project, with an estimated cost that has varied from $28 million to $55 million, ground to a halt.
Parlato finalized a “multi-million dollar” deal to buy the site in December. His plans are to turn the nine-story, adjacent building into office, conference and restaurant space.
Now that the pit will finally be filled, he’s not sure what’s going to go in its place.
“We have a new idea every day,” Parlato said. “It’s a huge area. The most important thing is to open up the area and make it green.”