PAU and Hargreaves Jones release updated design for Niagara Falls project

Niagara Falls, world-renowned for its gushing natural water feature where myriad lovebirds have flocked to, is getting a new park. State officials, alongside architects from Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU)  and Hargreaves Jones Landscape Architecture, presented the park design to the public this week which takes an existing plot in downtown Niagara Falls and converts it into green space packed with public amenities.

Most presciently, the new Niagara Heritage Gateways Project, a $12 million endeavor to strengthen the downtown’s connection to Niagara Falls State Park, a locale which annually attracts almost 20 million tourists, generating over $4 million in revenue. The new park, state officials say, will boost the local tax base by connecting tourists to the downtown economy. The project marks the first phase of a broader Downtown Niagara Falls Heritage Walk concept strengthening the downtown and Niagara Falls State Park connection.

Niagara Falls Heritage Garden site plan (Courtesy PAU)

The parcel was first acquired in 2019 by USA Niagara Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Empire State Development (ESD) invested in helping downtown Niagara Falls businesses. “These placemaking projects are the next step in rebuilding Downtown Niagara Falls,” said USA Niagara president Anthony Vilardo. “Led by Governor Hochul’s vision, our aim with these designs is to tell the story of our city, and create beautiful, functional public spaces that set the stage for additional economic development in the years to come,” Vilardo continued.

The project’s first phase includes Hydraulic Power Plaza and Niagara Gorge Gateway Park. Later phases will include a Tree Walk along the Riverway near Niagara River Upper Rapids. Tree Walk will be accessible via Buffalo Avenue and existing stairs at Niagara Falls State Park; upon completion it will offer panoramic views of the Upper Rapids and Goat Island. A new PAU-designed platform will be built from a wooden embankment that extends toward the river.

The pavilion design is circular in form and open to its surrounding landscape. Thin, wooden columns line the rounded structure, which is slated to be topped by an opaque, circular roof featuring geometric patterns. Underneath the roof a raised platform creates flexible space that serve as a stage or host for other recreational events.

The plans are part of PAU’s ongoing partnership with the city’s economic development agency. In 2021 the firm worked with USA Niagara Development Corporation (USAN), a subsidiary of Empire State Development (ESD), on a master plan to reenvision 25 sites across the downtown. Earlier this year the firm revealed renderings for the Niagara Heritage Gateways Project that showed a spiral-shaped observation deck.

New platform (Courtesy PAU)

The Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways project is backed by New York state through Buffalo Billion II, a $65 million revitalization plan by ESD, and through the Regional Revitalization Partnership. Niagara Falls mayor Robert Restaino welcomed the project, adding, “These Heritage Gateways are interesting ways to provide open green space downtown and also engage locals and tourists to rediscover points of interest in our downtown.”

Groundbreaking will happen in 2024.

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