Niagara Falls has had not one, but TWO malls not built!
Real talk, flock: what I told you that the wonderful Fashion Outlets currently sitting in Town of Niagara was supposed to be built downtown?
What if I told you the Mall of America was almost built downtown?
What if I told you that I wasn’t joking? That both of these statements are true?
Well, it’s true: all of it.
The Mall of America was considered in Niagara Falls (sort of)
Triple Five Group of Alberta, Canada, basically the Ghermezian brothers, were looking for a few locations to build up some giant malls in the late 80s. The Mall of America was pretty much set in stone to be built in Minnesota, but Niagara Falls, NY was being considered for another megamall/theme park. It was going to be called “Fantasyland”.
Of course, “Fantasyland” was exactly what it’s called: a Fantasy. The project was approved for an insane amount of funding from Gov. (Mario) Cuomo, but that’s when the project began to fall apart. Ontario tried to bring the mall to the Toronto area, and countered with a ton of money.
What ended up happening? Absolutely nothing. The Ghermezians didn’t move fast enough on the project, being busy with the Mall of America, and New York State pulled the funding.
Would the project ever actually come to fruition? Nobody can know for sure, but this brings us to our next mall.
Mayor Palillo will forever be known as the guy who screwed up the Outlet Mall
In Mayor Jacob A. Palillo’s obituary in the Buffalo News, this lovely little piece shows up:
“Mr. Palillo is best remembered for torpedoing a proposal from Benderson Development Co. to build a factory outlet megamall in downtown Niagara Falls.”
You probably know that mall as the Fashion Outlets.
Imagine if the mall was on Niagara Street instead of Military Road. That might have changed the entire landscape of downtown.
Of course, the obituary points out that the Ghermezian debacle played a heavy role in Palillo’s rejection of the mall plan.
Benderson wanted the city to foot $40 million to buy the land the mall needed to be built on. Palillo was a stubborn man: there was no way he was going to blow $40 million tax dollars on another Outlet Mall.
Why do I say another? Well, this was right around the time that the Rainbow Centre had been transformed into an outlet mall. I never see this piece of the puzzle mentioned: If the Rainbow Centre, which became an outlet mall, collapsed by 2000, what would have happened to the Benderson project?
Well, the Outlets in Town of Niagara are *allegedly* were a leading factor in the collapse of the Rainbow Centre. The Benderson mall project sits in a sort Schrodinger’s cat paradox: as viewed now, the mall could have both been a wild success, or suffered a swift and disastrous death.
I’ve said this before: I remember when the Fashion Outlets, then the Prime Outlets, was doing horribly. When I was young, the mall was as dead as the Summit. There was nobody in it. Now it’s back to being a massive success.
The point is, there are many factors that go into making or breaking a project. Would they have worked? I’ll leave that up to you.