Niagara Parks Commission orders study to examine the effects of high-rise hotels surrounding the Falls.

The Niagara Parks Commission has ordered the Guelph firm of RWDI to study whether or not the nearby high-rise hotels are affecting the dissipation of the familiar plume of mist arising from Horseshoe Falls. Wind effects created by the buildings may be the reason why Table Rock House and other areas surrounding the falls are getting soaked in the months of July, August and September.

With more mist, tourists are upset, business is affected and there may be some horticultural affects to the tourist site. At present, there has been no scientific evidence explaining the increased number of “mist-days”, but since the higher buildings encircling the falls have been constructed, there have been more days where the misting is having the same effect on tourists as a light rainfall.

About five years ago, the city permitted the construction of the first tier of new hotels, up to 30 storeys in height, along the escarpment. Since that time, the city has undergone a transformation whereby new hotel and convention facilities supported by a new generation of casinos and entertainment attractions. This new construction has formed a virtual wall within the Fallsview area overlooking Queen Victoria Park.

Toronto-based consulting firm IBI has been hired to look at the feasibility of increasing the height limit to 45 storeys for the “second tier” hotels. The second tier would be located behind the existing hotels near the Stanley Avenue area, making them taller but further away from the falls.

After examining the potential issues, the next phase of managing the tourist infrastructure will begin, with a consultative process with residents and developers.

The Niagara Parks Commission had opposed the initial 30-storey height allowance, fearing environmental concerns which may have been realized. With the addition of 45-storey hotels, questions have arisen whether any further environmental concerns will be exacerbated, as well as what measures could be introduced to mitigate any further environmental impact. Thus, the RWDI report should help guide urban design policies for future development of the city as well as ensuring responsible management of its major tourist attraction.