A dilapidated building at the corner of Main and Third streets in Niagara Falls was once at the center of a major illegal drug operation.
"When we took possession of these properties, they had a legacy of criminal enterprise,” said Anthony Vilardo, executive director of the Niagara Falls Development Corporation. “They were owned by ‘Dr. Feelgood,’ Dr. Mehta, who was prescribing pain medications haphazardly to people.”
Vilardo said the building, along with five adjacent properties including three houses, was acquired by the city through Dr. Pravin Mehta’s plea agreement and the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2016.
"To get rid of the stigma of Dr. Mehta's name, we reverted back to the original owner which was Cannon. So, we named the parcels the Cannon Block," Vilardo said.
Last year, the city sent out a request for proposals for developers for the newly renamed Cannon Block. Looking at three possible developers, the city found one right across the Rainbow Bridge in St. Catharines: Penn Terra Group Ltd.
"Based on the criteria that was set forward by the city, Penn Terra was the highest scoring of the proposers," Vilardo said.
The proposal calls for building a 38-unit student residence with commercial space on the ground floor. Vilardo said the proposal fits perfectly with the city's master plan to redevelop its downtown.
"It'll help activate the street life down there. We've seen a tremendous amount of apartments being renovated on Third Street in the last couple of years,” he said. “Just one block up; 531 Third Street is currently undergoing an 11- unit apartment renovation, another building that had been vacant for a number of years, and we're starting to see the activity of developers interested in repopulating downtown Niagara Falls.”
The total cost of the project is estimated at about $7 million. An estimated $2 million will come from a Restore NY Grant. Vilarado said if things go as planned, construction on the project could begin next spring with the completion date sometime in 2020.