Group RFP: Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways


Niagara Falls State Park is a national tourist attraction, with millions of visitors every year. People visit the landmark and frequently overlook the city as a whole because of the park’s spectacular views and historic assets. Visitors rarely take advantage of the excellent amenities available in the downtown area. Although directly adjacent to the state park, downtown Niagara Falls does not have easy access, and connections are often missed because of the vast open vacant land and intimidating street crossings. This had been the way for over 30 years because many investors practiced land speculation, meaning that they would hold parcels of land without building or otherwise capitalizing on the property. Due to the stagnant economy, and the industrialization of the downtown area, USA Niagara has plans on purchasing and developing the vacant land and restoring the city’s tourist reputation. 

The USA Niagara Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York State Urban Development Corporation, is looking to construct three proposed public gateway features in downtown Niagara Falls. The northern gateway feature will combine a public plaza that interprets the hydraulic canal that feeds one of its first power stations with a public recreation space along the State Park border. The first southern gateway is designed for an observation deck that looks out over the American Rapids on the Upper Niagara River Bridge to Goat Island. The second southern gateway will include a pocket park at the base of the American Rapids Bridge to Goat Island. Along with these gateway features, there will be four embedded “heritage checkpoints” to create small destination nodes along the Heritage path. 

Project Objectives

  • Create designs that benefit residents and tourists
  • Provide public space that draws in future visitors
  • Develop the land adjacent to the trail
  • Create safe connections between the State Park and Downtown Niagara Falls

Gateway #1

The first gateway is presumably to be constructed on two publicly owned properties, which are the USA Niagara-owned “Canal Site” as well as the City of Niagara Falls-owned “Gorge Gateway Site”. Both sites are readily accessible to the public. The design objectives for constructing the gateways here are accessibility for residents and tourists, new opportunities for outdoor recreation, and a new pedestrian connection between downtown Niagara and the Niagara Falls State Park. A few necessary design elements that would be necessary for this project include, but are not limited to: seating, lighting, landscaping, shade structures, etc. Possible elements that should be explored during the design process include a recreational space that could accommodate an ice-skating surface during winter months.

Gateway #2

The second gateway is to be located at 305 Buffalo Avenue and would include the construction of an observation deck that runs along the border of the Niagara Falls State Park. This deck is intended to be constructed by means of a partnership with the New York State office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). The city street grid and the State Park would be connected. Due to the high concentration of people in the Niagara area, the value of the area would go up if there were to be an easily accessible area for people to access the downtown area as well as the Falls. The design elements for this project would include, wayfinding signage consistent with existing standards, seating, lighting, landscaping, and a pathway to the Third Street Connector Path.

Gateway #3

The third gateway, a pocket park, is to be built at 101 Buffalo Avenue and include the construction of a small pocket park at the corner of Buffalo Avenue and 1st Street. As visitors go between the State Park and downtown, this park will provide a resting spot and a place for them to get their bearings. The pocket park will also serve as a crossing point between the urban environment of downtown and the more natural environment of the State Park. Design elements are to include but are not limited to wayfinding signage consistent with existing standards, seating, lighting and landscaping.

Heritage Checkpoints

For this extensive project it is imperative that we include “heritage checkpoints” to include information about the culture and rich history of the city of Niagara. Information and artistic interpretations on Niagara Falls’ past and present should be provided at the checkpoints. This might contain conventional printed boards and other tangible exhibits, but it might also include digital experiences like augmented reality exhibits that can be accessed through mobile devices. The first checkpoint “Borderland Theme” would study the history of Native Americans, Freedom Seekers, and others who traveled to the American-Canadian border across time, and incorporate it into the design of the Gorge Gateway Site. The second checkpoint “Power & Industry Theme” would be included into the planning of the Canal Site and study the industrial history of Niagara Falls, paying particular focus on the former hydraulic canal. The third checkpoint “Niagara Reservation Theme” would include the Upper Rapids Observation deck. The history of how renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted led the preservation effort and created the park in conjunction with Calvert Vaux should be covered, as well as the founding of the first state park system in the country. The fourth and last checkpoint “Humans of Niagara” would demonstrate the variety of people who have contributed to Niagara Falls’ ever-changing cultural scene, from the voices of the indigenous Haudenosaunee people to the efforts of both locals and visitors from around the world. The checkpoint needs to be inclusive and reflect the diversity of its visitors through a range of interconnected viewpoints.

Scope of Services

The consultant team would provide the necessary skills and services in architecture, land surveying, urban design, and construction cost estimating for the entirety of the project. This would include the design and construction of the public plaza and recreation space, observation deck, pocket park, and heritage checkpoints. The first task for the consultant team would be to determine the project constraints and landscape guidelines to ensure that the design supports the anticipated use. Next, the consultant will review the existing plans and historical documents to ensure that the design of the project is feasible and accurate. Once these plans are approved, the team ensures the following for the project:

  • Development of 3 design concepts 
  • Provide an estimate of probable costs
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the alternate design concepts

The next task would be design development where the consultant team would prepare schematic design documents that abide by the requirements of the USA Niagara program, budget, and schedule. The consultant team would establish a schedule for the construction period and provide an estimate of probable costs of major components and escalation factors of the project. The firm will also issue the complete drawings and specifications of the existing conditions and the proposed construction. This will include:

  • Site plans
  • Landscape
  • Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing
  • Hazardous or contaminated materials

In addition to this, the consultant firm will also assist in contract advertising and reviewing bids and preparing agendas for these meetings. 


  1. Experience in consulting services, economic development, and construction
  2. Ability to complete projects in an expeditious manner
  3. Team with relevant completed experience within the last 10 years including:
  • Project description
  • Cost of project
  • Schedule for construction
  • Project references


USA Niagara will provide high level project management services including the processing of payments and contract oversight. The beginning of the project begins with providing documentation to have the completion of obtaining permits, which will help us to obtain everything under regulations at the time of proceeding with this project. It is very important to keep in mind that, with the approximate budget that we are giving, severe includes the designs, permits, materials and labor by the workers, although it does not take away from the fact that a percentage is added to the budget in case we face any setback during construction. The project would start in September next year, that is to say in September 2023, which will be finished approximately from September 2026 to March 2027, since we will have to take into account unexpected circumstances during the process. 


Request For Proposals Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways. Request for Proposals Niagara Falls Heritage Gateways | Empire State Development. (2022, August 9).