LEWISTON – The festival and concert seasons are slowing down in this bustling village, but the action is not. Suddenly, the Village of Lewiston appears to be the place where everyone wants to be.
Nearly a dozen new projects are on the table or under consideration, including several multimillion-dollar plans for both construction and renovation at long-vacant properties.
“For a small community of a little over 2,700 residents to have this much business and interest in our village tells you something,” said Mayor Terry C. Collesano. “You put a house up, and (snap), it’s gone.”
One of the largest developments is owned by Carl P. Paladino of Buffalo and his son William A. Paladino, who are in the process of submitting plans for a 15-acre plot of land bordered by Eighth, Onondaga and Center streets that is owned by their company, Ellicott Development Corp.
Collesano said the Paladinos want to put a plaza on the site, which means knocking down a few Center Street businesses, such as Grand Paws Pet Emporium, a pizzeria and an antique shop, and putting in a yet-to-be-named fast-food restaurant, a drugstore, a bank and six retail stores, along with six condominiums at the rear of the site. That plan is expected to come before the Historic Preservation and Planning Board when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14.
The mayor said officials already have asked for a revision of a first draft.
“They had no structures on Center Street. Everything was contained down below the slope,” the mayor said. “What we told them is: ‘This is a walking community, and we would prefer that there be some stores on Center Street.’ ”
Here is a look at other projects under way or on the drawing board:
• Lewiston resident Emery J. Simon has his hands in two projects in the village, the Stone House Wine Bar at 755 Center St. in the historic Bates Cook Law Office, and the former Frontier Lanes bowling alley at 845 Cayuga St., which he and his partner, Harold G. Hibbard, are renovating into the new Lewiston Event Center, a combination game center/bowling alley with meeting rooms.
The Stone House, which is 75 percent complete, opened in January, offering a wine bar with finger food. Simon said they are building a kitchen and expect to offer a wider variety of foods when the project is completed in the spring. He said the Lewiston Event Center is also open and will be continually updated for several years.
“The person who wanted to purchase it before us wanted to tear it down, but we don’t believe bowling is dead, it’s just not what it once was,” Simon said.
He said they are removing 10 of the 40 lanes and will have games rooms, simulators, party rooms and meeting rooms. Some events have already used the new meeting rooms.
“We’ve put tremendous money into both investments; I won’t say how much. Let’s just say stupid money into both,” he said.
• Action has begun on developing the historic Frontier House into a microbrewery. The three-story stone structure, which sits in the center of the village on Center Street, has been vacant since 2004. The property, owned by Richard A. Hastings and various partners, had been left dormant after several proposals failed to materialize. But according to Collesano, that may be changing.
He said the frustration of seeing nothing happening for so many years caused the village to make an offer to buy it for $750,000, and officials are still in the process of trying to obtain a state Department of Transportation grant.
In the meantime, Hastings has turned the property over to his son, Alan J. Hastings, who already leases the Silo Restaurant from the village.
“We obtained 2,500 signatures from local people who support us in our efforts to purchase the Frontier House,” Collesano said. “We wanted to get something moving. Now [the Hastingses] are moving forward, and we are working together.”
Collesano said the village is trying to help, which could include purchasing the property and leasing it back to Hastings or helping him get additional financing.
“He wants to put in a microbrewery and a pub and a restaurant with historical rooms upstairs,” the mayor said. “It’s a great idea, but he understands that if he cannot get the funding, we go to Plan B, which is [the village] purchasing it. Something is going to happen.”
• The former Barton Hill Hotel & Spa and Village Inn at First and Center streets, also known historically as the Trafford Mansion or the Bloody Bucket Saloon, was bought by Whirlpool Jet Boat owner John Kinney, who is developing the site as a tour operator visitors center and Internet cafe for his motor coach tours.
He said that about a third of the people on any motor coach don’t go on the boat ride and that these people need a place to rest, relax and get out of the weather. The building, which will be restored as the Trafford Mansion, is scheduled to be completed in the spring.
• Brio’s, a pizza shop on Center Street, next to the Brickyard Pub and BBQ restaurant, was bought by Ken Bryant and Eric Matthews, who own both the Brickyard and Tin Pan Alley restaurants in the village.
Bryant and Matthews are restoring the building after the pizza shop was damaged by a fire. Collesano said they have put in a new patio and are selling pizza amid speculation that a steakhouse may be coming. The Brickyard itself was recently expanded, opening its own second-floor patio in the summer.
• Jack Lyons, owner of the Orange Cat Coffee House, is restoring the building across the street at the corner of Seventh and Center streets. He is putting in new shops, including an upscale handbag shop, which has opened, and has submitted plans for a wine store with tastings.
“They were going to sell wine by the glass, but were prohibited by state law due to their proximity to a church. He can sell it by the bottle. You will be able to taste the wines,” Collesano said.
• Lewiston Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 recently completed construction of a multimillion-dollar five-bay station on North Sixth Street, replacing the former station. In keeping with Lewiston’s historic theme, the hall also has a museum area with a 1937 Ward LaFrance fire engine.
Les Myers, president of the fire company, said that the $2 million project was 15 years in the making and that members themselves did the demolition work, with the help of specialized equipment from village Department of Public Works and the town Highway Department. “It was a true team effort,” Myers said.
He said they worked with an architect who designed stations for four other area fire companies and spent a year and a half working on the plan with a Fire Department Building Committee of 10 firefighters with wide experience in various trades who were able to critique and redesign the plan. Myers said members also did a lot of the work themselves.
“We said from the start we wanted something that would fit into the Village of Lewiston,” Myers said. “We are a quaint little village, and we didn’t want to put up a pole barn that did not fit in.”
He added, “We’ve been saving our money, and we will have a mortgage to pay off to fund some of it, but some frugal spending over the past 15 years was what allowed us to make this dream a reality.”
• Other new projects include: a commercial development at Eighth and Center streets, on the far west end of the CVS Plaza, which is still in the planning stages. The property is owned by Lewiston Tops Market owner Anthony DiMino, who plans to put one large 4,000-square-foot store or break it up into four smaller stores, Collesano said.
Also, Angels to Apples and D’Avoli’s – two adjacent stores in the 400 block of Center Street – were approved last week to expand a second floor to add upscale apartments; and the site of the former Fairchild Manor Nursing Home has approval and has begun to build 18 one- and two-bedroom upscale condominiums, between North Seventh and Eighth streets, across the street from where Paladinos plan to build condominiums.
Developers faces challenges in Lewiston because of the historic character of the village.
Simon and Kinney said that restoring historic buildings is more labor-intensive, costing three times more than original construction, but is also part of doing business in the village.
“We’ve met many, many challenges with it being a historic building. We are trying to conform around it,” Simon said of the Stone House.
Kinney agreed, noting that he found dry rot in the wood and had to replace historic siding and windows.
Collesano said Kinney saved the building by moving it and restoring the foundation.
“It’s tough to find businesses that can justify restoring these buildings,” Kinney said. “But the Village of Lewiston has been extremely, extremely good to the Whirlpool Jet Boat. We’ve worked well together to make the waterfront a historic place for residents and visitors alike,” Kinney said.
“And the Historic Preservation Board did not want to see this building torn down. This is just a small way to give back to a community that has been pretty good to us.”
The village isn’t leaving all the upgrades to the private sector.
Collesano said the village also is looking to secure $10 million for some big plans to develop community space at the waterfront with additional parking, a steamship museum, a refreshment center and an ice-skating rink.
And at Academy Park on Center Street, it wants to redevelop the park by moving the stage and extending the walkway/promenade around the entire park.
“It’s a clean environment. It’s a safe environment. It’s a place you can get out of your car and not worry about your surroundings,” Simon said of the village.
“People like John [Kinney] and myself are not just putting in one-time money and trying to reap the benefits, but are constantly reinvesting and working at making it a better place.”