The transformation that TM Montante Development is planning for a prime piece of real estate in downtown Niagara Falls includes a partnership with Niagara University. Most of the commercial space will be dedicated incubator space for NU's Niagara Global Tourism Institute.
Montante's adaptive reuse plan for three long-vacant buildings at 7th and Niagara Streets, across from the casino, includes dedicated incubator space for the Niagara Global Tourism Institute. Its Director, Patrick Whelan says, the Institute has four pillars: research, workforce training, technology and entreprenuership. Whalen says he thinks technology in tourism is underdeveloped.
"We all know about Airbnb and Uber. But there's a lot of opportunity for other apps that would aid tourists or tourist operators. So we think there's a real good opportunity to start to develop these kind of apps in Niagara Falls," Whalen said.
He points out, that the ecosystem already exists
"If somebody comes in here, for example, and develops an app for hotels, we got 58 hotels in town that we can go to and say, 'Can you guys be beta-sites?' Whalen said.
The downtown location would also be convenient for the workforce training programs offered by the Tourism Institute.
"We run a program for homeless people, for entry-level jobs in the tourism space. We do some training for front desk clerks to give them sales skills," Whalen said.
They also plan to develop a coworking incubator to help "any and all residents" turn a business idea into reality.
Before joining the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, Whalen helped start the business incubator on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
"On the Medical Campus, obviously it was life-science technology. But in our incubator, and in our coworking space there, I'd say half the companies were not life-science companies. And that's what we see here. We're not just going to be tourism tech. We're going to have all kinds of companies in here," Whalen said.
The upcoming move to 7th and Niagara Streets, Whalen says, is excitng becaue consolidating their space will allow the Institute to save money and put the tourism incubator on steroids.