Niagara Falls, New York, has suffered in recent decades from a number of ills: falling population, failed urban renewal, Rust Belt decline, and widespread corruption. Bloomberg Businessweek says of Niagara Falls that “decades of decay, corruption, and failed get-rich-quick schemes have made the city one of the most intractable disasters in the United States.” However, a developer and area native son is hoping to help reverse the fortunes of the famous tourist destination. Mark Rivers left Western New York for a career out West, rejuvenating downtown Boise, Idaho, with several projects, including a street festival. He founded a marketplace at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Calif. Now Rivers is starting a high end winter flea market, called the Niagara Holiday Market, set to run from Black Friday to New Year’s Day.
Rivers is also persistent. In March, the Tourism Advisory Board unanimously voted the proposal down, and City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said, “There is no city money. The pot is empty. You pay for it yourself.” Another board member said that an outsider was not needed, and locals could do it just as well. Miller, who still owns a house in Western New York, stuck to his guns, ultimately getting commitments from three big corporate sponsors. In addition to corporate sponsors, he has received funding from a state agency, and ultimately, even convinced the city of Niagara Falls to support the market. Rivers says that his company, Brix and Co., would raise a large part of the amount. The funding is complicated; according to the local Niagara Gazette newspaper:
“In March, city lawmakers voted unanimously to support an agreement that requires the developer to meet specific performance standards in order to qualify for city funding to move the $900,000 project forward. The developer is in line to receive $225,000 in city casino revenue, with $40,000 having already been made available and the delivery of the remaining $185,000 contingent upon the company’s ability to have 50 percent of all necessary sponsorship, vendor agreements, marketing plans and other event-related activities in place by July. USA Niagara has agreed to provide another $225,000 under a similar arrangement. Rivers issued a May 31 report showing he has obtained roughly $150,000 in sponsorship income, or about 34 percent of the total target budget, to date. After the report was delivered, Rivers said he acquired another $50,000 in sponsorship support, bringing the total amount collected so far to about $200,000.”
The Niagara Holiday Market will include several remarkable attractions in addition to about 80 vendors. It will include famous retailers in “pop-up” stores, a temporary ice skating rink, horse-drawn carriage rides,cooking demonstrations, a high school chorus tournament, Santa’s workshop, live entertainment, carolers, roasting chestnuts, and holiday decorations. A local supermarket is sponsoring a food and wine festival. The market will be both indoors and outdoors.
Photo credit, with thanks: City Club of Boise.