Manhattan real estate tycoon Howard Milstein owns development rights to a 140-acre parcel of property in downtown Niagara Falls, and has contemplated redevelopment options for the tract of land since the late 1990s, through his interest in Niagara Falls Redevelopment, LLC. The capital intensity of building out those mammoth proposals had always proven prohibitive. Political backlash against use of state subsidies often colored the debate.
Buffalonians for New Leadership, a civic advocacy group, wants Delaware North Companies’ Chairman Jeremy Jacobs to partner with Milstein in developing a zoologically themed amusement park on the property, built on a concession and merchandizing focused revenue model rather than on tickets and attendance fees.
Supporters say that a zoo could be constructed at a lighter capital intensity than the glitzy proposals of the past, would attract the support of corporate sponsorships and philanthropic involvement — and would be far more palatable use of public resources.
The Niagara Falls Redevelopment site would allow for far more roomy animal exhibits than are possible at other zoos, with plenty of public spaces for concessions, retail, merchandizing, and entertainment vendors. The existing street grid can be quickly repurposed for pedestrian use.
Advocates say that with Milstein and Jacobs both on board, the project would have the necessary political influence to secure Cuomo administration backing for downtown streetscape improvements, investment in public spaces, removal of surface parking lots and roadways in the State Park, and further removal of the Robert Moses Parkway along the upper and lower Niagara Rivers — all seen as necessary urban design changes that will elevate the city as a destination.