YOUNGSTOWN – The Village of Youngstown is pursuing grants to potentially purchase an empty lot at 347 Main St. with a spectacular view and an interesting history.
Mayor Raleigh Reynolds said, “If we could get 100 percent funding through grants, and it would not cost the taxpayers a penny, we would try to purchase the property. But if we would need taxpayer money to buy it, I would want to put it out for a referendum so that we could have the input of everyone in the village. The Village Board is with me on this.”
The property is not currently for sale. It belongs to Gary Smith, chief operating officer of Modern Corp., and partners, who secured Planning Board approval in 2008 for a $2 million, three-story, eight-condominium project but have not developed the site.
Despite the fact that the land is not on the market, a group of local residents has been encouraging the Village Board to try to pursue purchase of what they believe is a site of great historic importance.
Smith and his partners purchased the vacant property for $120,000 in June 2008 at public auction, when it was assessed at $52,000. It is currently assessed at $52,400.
Situated on the corner of Main Street and Water Street, the site overlooks the Niagara River as it empties into Lake Ontario. It was the site from 1891 to 1939 of the El Dorado Hotel, built by Frank Steele, a four-story Victorian structure that accommodated people traveling by boat, electric trolley and carriage.
In addition to providing rooms, it also hosted dances, plays and dinners for those visiting Niagara Falls and Fort Niagara. The site later housed a gas station and Yellow Goose Market but has been vacant for the past two decades.
After acquiring Planning Board approval, Smith quietly set the proposed condo project aside.
“I could have pursued it,” Smith said. “There was some opposition to the plan, but that wasn’t why we dropped it. It was because it was 2008, and the market dropped out. That was when the housing market crashed. There were actually people ready to put money down on about three of the condos preconstruction, because there are people looking for higher-end condos in Youngstown.”
Smith said he is aware of the village’s interest in the site.
“I know there’s been some interest by some folks about the possibility, and we told them what we had in mind and if they were interested to send a contract, but I haven’t heard anything,” Smith said. We might put it up for sale someday.”
Smith said he would “rather not say” what figures might be under discussion with the Youngstown group.
“It’s not public information at this point,” he said.
When the property was available for purchase in the past three decades, prior Village Board majorities voted down the opportunity to buy the land.