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LOCKPORT – If the Lockport Family YMCA is going to leave its downtown building, it would be a great spot for a hotel, the city’s development chief said last week.

The Lockport YMCA is planning a merger with the YMCA Buffalo Niagara in 2016, and the larger organization wants to move ahead with the long-dormant $14 million plan to construct a new Lockport Y on Snyder Drive in the Town of Lockport.

That would leave the Y’s 88-year-old, three-story East Avenue building vacant. The YMCA Buffalo Niagara has pledged to find a re-use, and that’s where Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell comes in.

“The highest and best use for that would be some sort of hotel, boutique-style lodging,” Bell said.

He said other possibilities might include “market-rate housing” or some kind of mixed use.

“It’s got a lot of character, great curb appeal, and it’s located between the Palace Theatre and Cornerstone CFCU Arena,” Bell said.

The city’s new twin-rink ice arena is expected to be a major draw for youth travel hockey teams and parents, and it is to share a municipal parking lot with the Y, a block away. The theater, which offers a variety of movies and stage shows, is directly across East Avenue from the Y.

“But it’s a tough building,” Bell said. The same reasons the YMCA wants to move out are the reasons redevelopment might be a challenge. Lack of parking would be one issue.

Also, the building contains a variety of multilevel floors as well as a gym and a swimming pool, and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I have gone through it with two potential developers. I would say neither one is interested at this time,” Bell said.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said she agrees that a downtown hotel would help with tourism. The city’s only hotels are on the South Transit Street commercial strip at the southern edge of the city, while the Erie Canal locks and other attractions are a mile or more away.

“The dynamic in downtown Lockport is changing,” McCaffrey said.

One factor in that change is the arena, slated to open by Sept. 19, when the Lockport Express Junior A hockey team plays its first game.

Construction has fallen behind the target of having both rinks open by mid-September, and Bell said the big push is on to get the 400-seat main rink ready for the Express’ opener.

He said dasher boards will be installed in the next two weeks, and the ice-making system will be activated, “to get it to be the skateable surface that we need.”

Bleachers are expected to be delivered to the rinks in the next two weeks, but Bell said it’s going to be a close call as to whether seating will be available for the first game.

Bell, vice president of the not-for-profit group building the $14 million rink on Chestnut Street, said the second rink, with seating for 200, probably won’t be ready until about Oct. 1. Exterior touches, including an ornamental tower at the corner of Chestnut and Market streets, likely won’t be completed until early November, he said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com