In the early 1980′s the City of Niagara Falls underwent a urban renewal of sorts. From part of that “rebirth” came the Rainbow Centre Mall located in the heart of downtown Niagara Falls, NY. The mall opened its doors on July 4th, 1982.
The former mall is a two floor indoor shopping center consisting of over 280,000 square feet of retail space. A parking ramp is part of the structure and is incorporated with the design.
The integration of the mall and ramp allowed for skylights to be placed on the top of the building – five stories high. A column of light flowed down to the lower two levels of the mall. Windows on the third and fourth levels of the parking ramp overlook into the mall. On the fifth level of the ramp the skylights can be seen. Some of the pictures in the gallery below were taken through these windows.
The main level of the mall featured a water fountain with an overlooking glass elevator. The fountain’s design was interesting since it had steps that lead right down to the water’s edge. The south end of the mall connected to the Wintergraden, an arboretum that once contained seven thousand tropical plants. The Wintergarden was demolished in 2009. In its place a pedestrian walkway was established that connects Rainbow Boulevard to 1st Street.
Currently the mall is owned by the City of Niagara Falls and is assessed at $9.8-million (94% of market value) per the Niagara Falls’ assessor. It sits on a lot that is 4.22 acres in size. The total square footage of the structure is 628,572 sq. ft., with 336,924 sq. ft. for the ramp and 291,648 sq. ft. enclosed. The site address is actually listed to be 360 Rainbow Mall, whereas no Rainbow Mall street exists on city maps.
The City of Niagara Falls leases the mall to the Cordish Companies from Baltimore, MD. The lease dates back to the mall’s inception. Today the parking ramp is run by the City and used for tourist parking (at a charge). The Rainbow Centre is located only a short distance from the Falls and the Canadian border.
The mall that opened in 1982 struggled for nearly a decade, not turning a profit until 1990. At that time the mall’s anchor, Beir’s Department Store, was replaced by Burlington Coat Factory. And the mall soon became full of outlet stores. The success was short lived as other area malls and outlet malls started to draw the customers from the Rainbow Centre. By the end of the 1990′s times had grown financially unfeasible for its tenants. The Burlington Coat Factory closed its doors in 1999, and the rest of the stores were closed by September 2000. The only remaining tenant, inside the mall, was an off-track betting center. In 2005, the off-track betting center moved out and the mall was officially closed to foot traffic.
Since its closing there have been numerous press releases and news articles about the future of the Rainbow Centre. It has been stated that the building will be converted into an entertainment complex, a series of clubs and restaurants, etc. Most recently there was interest expressed in the facility by Niagara County Community College. The college was evaluating space for hosting its culinary arts program. Unfortunately the deal fell through and the college has looked on to other locations to satisfy its needs.
Currently the building sits in diminishing shape. There appears to be significant water damage at various locations throughout the structure. The faded signs continue to hang, and the railings of the ramp all lost of their shinny red paint, now covered with rust. The stairwells are unfriendly and uninviting, covered in graffiti and harsh lighting (where the lighting works). The walkway to the elevators, which is used by people heading to and from their cars in the ramp, is deplorable.
All of the pictures in the gallery below were taken in July of this year. The interior pictures were taken through the glass doors and windows that are all public accessible. In some instances a polarizer on the camera’s lens was used to reduce the reflection and glare off the glass, but much of the glass was covered in grit and grime that could not be removed. All the pictures are untouched, only adjustments to the overall exposure (and some cropping) have been made.
Reference: The Niagara One / Occidental Building
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