7/31/2009

Becker Brewing Company

Posted by MJ

I saw in the Life and Times in Gasport Blog a post on the debut of the Becker Brewing Company on August 28th. Would this be the closest micro-brew to Lockport? Does Lockport have a place where one can get a variety of local and other micro brews on draft (besides the growlers at Consumer's Beverage)? I'd like to be informed.

7/30/2009

Highway Signage DT.

Posted by MJ

Image: Progress at Aaron's - Jul '09
Aaron's facade is slowly moving along. I don't see the point in adding the generic strip-plaza Dryvit "peak" feature to the more modern low slug building but that is off topic... ;)

I question the need for the free standing pole sign (types of signage). Is there really a need for an additional sign 30 ft in front of and 20ft above the redundant sign that will be placed on the front facade? Is there a need for these types of signs anywhere in the the city where the speed limit is 30 mph max, sight lines don't extend for more than a few blocks and trees are more common than not?  This is not S. Transit in the town where the business will be behind a foot ball field sized parking lot and being searched out by cars driving by at 50 mph.

If signage at the side walk is desired (and we weren't sucessful at getting anything but a parking lot built at the street frontage) a freestanding ground sign would be much more appropriate within our urban context. See this one at a new Walgreen's in Clarance:

If the new sign ordinance has not outright banned these elevated free standing pole signs in the city, it should. They add nothing in the urban environment and at best take away from the smaller human scaled features around them.

7/28/2009

Main St. Happenings

Posted by MJ

I'm note sure how long this sign has been up or if the LUSJ had anything in print
but it looks like the old Metropolitan is finally finding a new use after almost a year.
Mmmmmm...curry :)

UPDATE 7/29/08

LUSJ has posted an article on the new business and it's Owner. Mr. Singh has also purchased the Quiznos that was for sale in the Home Depot Plaza and is planning on reopening the Gas station at Walnut and Washburn. I've never associated the words "Indian" and "Grill".

As for the food:

“Once you try it, you’ll know what ‘Indian’ is. And you’ll be back,” Singh promised....Indian Grill will serve Indian-American “fusion” dishes in a casual atmosphere at affordable prices, he said; “casual” and “affordable” are qualities that his Quiznos customers have told him they desire....“It’s Indian food made to the taste of Americans; it’s not bland, but it’s not too spicy. ... And, believe me, it’ll be heaven for vegetarians,” he said.

and please, please try to find a way to use the Main St entance. ;)


Down the road the Wilson Farms at N. Transit and West (along with the one up the road) are getting a mini make over.
There is a "coming soon" sign for Niagara's First Impressions in front of the MTC building at W. Main and S. Transit
Work is also still progressing at Aaron's at Walnut and S. Transit. Still no hint of signage. Speaking of which a new and improved Sign Ordinance was submitted to the legislature for review. It has been whittled down to 21 pages from 35. I look forward to seeing it applied or the lack thereof, especially at Aaron's.

7/27/2009

Chet's Fest a Success

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting on the fundraiser festival for Chet Secrist , the owner of Chet’s Dog House on West Main Street.

We walked over and hit the pancake breakfast around 10:30, bought a nice brown Dog House tee and then tried our luck at the basket auction (with no luck.) After seeing a picture of the medals handed out in the paper, I wish I would have tried running (though, to be honest, most likely without any luck).

What a great turn out in volunteers, donators and visitors. A great local story that will hopefully see Chet fully recovered and the Dog House soon back in action.

Feel free to post if you attended and what you thought about it.

7/25/2009

Last one...

Posted by Black Phillip

And it's short.

If someone is standing on the side of the road, talking rather loudly into my car telling me I will suffer for an eternity if I don't believe in the same thing as he does, is that a hate crime, or at the very least criminal harassment?


-Erik.

7/24/2009

Chuck E. Cheese. Where a kid can learn to kill a kid.

Posted by Black Phillip


With all the troubles in the world today, it's nice to know that we have some hardworking members of the Amherst Town Board are looking out for your children, and protecting them from the evil Chuck E. Cheese. (I debated for a while if I was going to put a link up to the violence and filth peddlers Chuck E Cheese, but I figured that we are mostly adults here, and we know how to limit our exposure from such mind destroying products that they push on our unsuspecting youngins.)


Council Member Shelly Schratz said she was disturbed by several “action-packed shoot-and-kill games...When I see 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds playing those games, when all the time we’re opening the paper and seeing those stories on youth violence, do we need those games to make money?"

PHEW. Thank god for Shelly Schratz. We shouldn't let our youngsters play these "action packed shoot and kill" murder simulators (ok, the last part was not her words, but look it up, you'll see it used a lot against video games). We should be going back to the games that I played as a kid (well, before the video games really hit), and my parents played, and my parent's parents played. Good games. Like Cops & Robbers, where we'd use toy guns to shoot Robbers. Or Cowboys & Indians, where we'd use toy guns to shoot Indians. Or Water Guns, where we'd use toy guns to shoot people with water. Or Laser Tag, where we would shoot people with laser guns. Or war with painted lead toy soldiers. Or do other non-interactive things like watch TV. Or read a book. We don't want kids interacting with pixel based representations of fantasy objects. We want kids to play with reality based representations of fantasy objects. Or enjoy a story that there's no interaction or control over.
Schratz — who was the first to express concern about the appropriateness of the business’s arcade games — tried to change her vote after the fact and table the resolution.“I should have—and I didn’t — just table it from the start,” she said. “But I thought if I brought to the board’s attention the information about the games that I saw, that people would comment. But they didn’t.”

Wait. What? So she did it just as a ploy to get people to "comment"? So it wasn't about Chuck E Cheese, but to steer the conversation to if video games were evil? I mean, we all know that they are evil, but I thought she had our backs. That she was concerned about America's children.
Huh.


-Erik.

And what would be a post by me without a tiny text note?
From the Chuck E. Cheese website:
To help separate the older kids from the younger kids, our game rooms are arranged into different sections:Toddler Zone | Kiddie Area | Skill Games & Arcades
Imagine that.
(PS. Stop by the comments for some bonus content.)

7/24/2009

Rotten Grapes

Posted by Black Phillip


I will say, that yes, there are two sides to every story.
And yes, things change over time.
But...
I make judgements based on what I know, or at least believe to be facts.
I believe that the below linked articles are based on facts.

So I'll just post these out here before I get to my comments.

The city is asking Niagara County for $100,000 to help launch a Wine Emporium on Canal Street.

On behalf of Beautiful Visions LLC, the city earlier this month filed an application for a Niagara River Greenway grant to complete the purchase and furnishing of 79 Canal St.

Beautiful Visions, a separate company by J. Fitzgerald Group partners Jack Martin and Carmel Cerullo-Beiter, would rent the building to Margo Bittner’s Appleton Creek Winery LLC as a satellite winery.

According to Martin, the Wine Emporium would sell all Niagara County-produced wines and a host of other locally grown and created goods.
...
Mayor Michael Tucker vouched for the project in the grant application, writing in a support letter that the emporium would be the “stimulus to entice other businesses” to the Canal Street block. GLDC has showed 79 Canal to several prospective buyers but is holding them off in the hope Beautiful Visions goes for the purchase; it has “first dibs” at the moment, he said, because its proposal satisfies two GLDC goals — recruiting retail and increasing downtown’s tourist appeal.
A proposed Lockport retail outlet that would sell Niagara County-produced goods, pegged by supporters as a potential center for tourists interested in the county’s Wine Trail, failed to receive the endorsement of the Niagara River Greenway Commission this week.

By a 6-4 vote, the commission found the Canalside Wine Emporium proposal did not meet the goals of a 2007 master plan for a Buffalo-to- Youngstown recreational trail along the Niagara River.

The Greenway Commission holds no power to award funding, but its denial raises roadblocks for the project receiving any share of the $9 million in annual funding dedicated to Greenway projects.
...
Initially, the proposal from Beautiful Vision LLC called for the property at 79 Canal St. to be privately owned. The project, as presented Tuesday, had been changed — the City of Lockport would now maintain ownership of the building.
...
The project will still move forward, and other funding sources will be sought, he said. Sponsors had been seeking $100,000 in Greenway funds for acquisition costs, according to their initial application.

Applicants who fail to receive commission endorsement are free to resubmit their plans, said Rob Belue, the commission’s executive director.

Some of the commissioners deemed the project inconsistent because they believed the project’s location was outside the boundaries of the Greenway, as well as the location having limited connections to the Niagara River, though some who voted in favor considered the project to have sufficient geographic ties with the Greenway.
...
Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he was angered by the commission’s vote, but said the project will move forward. The city’s development agency, Greater Lockport Development Corp., might spend $100,000 of its own money to fix up the building and then sell it to Beautiful Visions, he said.

“There were some great projects, but ours was the best,” Tucker said of the projects reviewed by the Greenway Commission on Tuesday.
Back to the US&J, May 30
Greater Lockport Development Corp. is taking action to ensure the Wine Emporium opens on Canal Street this summer.

GLDC’s board of directors this week approved spending the money to outfit 79 Canal St. as a satellite winery/marketplace for all locally produced goods. The agency will pay the tab for having the building interior finished, then lease or sell it to the company that pitched the Wine Emporium.

“Finally, we’ll have something on the block, and it’s the right thing,” Mayor Michael Tucker, GLDC president, said Friday.

Beautiful Visions, a separate company by J. Fitzgerald Group partners Jack Martin and Carmel Cerullo-Beiter, pitched the Emporium as a showcase for products created in Niagara County.
...
Martin will negotiate with GLDC principals next week regarding whether his company will lease or purchase the improved building from GLDC
...
It’s using money from its revolving loan fund, which is considered private, not public, cash, [Attorney John Ottaviano] said. The agency may use the contractors that Martin already obtained estimates from.
But wait, there's more.

Back again to the Buffalo News, July 24
A local winery owner plans to open a store selling Niagara County farm products exclusively, while the man who first broached the idea charges he was double-crossed.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker told the Greater Lockport Development Corp. board Thursday that the Canalside Wine Emporium is to open next year at 79 Canal St., a building owned by the city corporation.

Margo S. Bittner, owner of the Winery at Marjim Manor in Appleton, will be in charge, and her employee, Sara Capen of Newfane, will manage the store.

Jack Martin, owner of J. Fitzgerald Group, a Lockport ad agency, is out of the picture, Tucker said.

An angry Martin said, “I’ve spent eight months trying to do something for the city, and I’m done. We’re going to focus on our own business.”

He blasted Bittner for allegedly stealing his idea and going to the city with a proposal after Martin’s talks with the city broke down.

Martin said, “Margo’s name is pretty muddy around the area, and this is how she deals. She runs over people.”
...
Bittner said, “I guess everyone’s got their own opinion. I am quite frankly looking forward to working with the other wineries and the other businesses I have good relations with.”

“I’ll put our reputation up against anyone else involved in this debacle,” Martin said.

He and his ad agency partner, Carmel Cerullo-Beiter, came up with the idea of a retail store selling the wines produced in Niagara County and other local farm products. At first, their idea was to place it at 16 W. Main St., a storefront owned by J. Fitzgerald Group, two doors from the ad agency.

Bittner’s firm was asked to be the lead winery and to enlist the support of other members of the Niagara Wine Trail. Capen already manages Bittner’s satellite outlet, the Kempville Wine Shop in Olcott, and was to manage the Lockport store, too.

Martin then became interested in 79 Canal St., above the Erie Canal locks, but things started to come unglued May 19.
...
The city’s development corporation then tried to work with Martin’s group on the project. But that went awry, too.

Martin said he had a verbal agreement with the city to buy the property for $95,000, but after a June 8 closed-door development agency meeting, the deal was substantially altered and became more expensive.

The city was to sell the property to Martin for $108,000, after a three-year lease with a balloon payment at the end. Martin also thought the property would be tax-exempt for five years, but it wasn’t.

“It’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz. We could never find out who was behind the curtain,” Martin said Thursday.

Tucker said, “I think the [development agency] board bent over backwards for Jack. The project kept changing. They didn’t have a business plan. They didn’t have any projections. They know Jack, or know of Jack, and his success in business and his desire to help our community. If John Q. Public had come in with the same proposal Jack had, he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, but they had confidence in Jack.”

The negotiations foundered, and Martin decided to open the store at 16 W. Main after all. Bittner didn’t like that news; she said, “I think Canal Street is ideal.”

On June 22, she e-mailed Martin, “I was very surprised to read in the newspaper that the Emporium will be opening on Main Street. Which winery are you working with? By the way, before you use the name, you need to know that I have trademarked ‘Canalside Wine Emporium.’ ”

By July 7, Martin had learned that Bittner and Capen approached the city for a new Canal Street deal. “Unscrupulous,” Martin termed it.

Tucker said Thursday that the city has applied for another Greenway grant, this one $200,000. The city will keep the money to hire a contractor to make both floors of 79 Canal ready for occupancy, while Bittner works on obtaining a liquor license, which she said will take three or four months.
...
Bittner said the Greenway commission is supposed to vote on the grant Sept. 22.
Sorry for the large amount of copy paste, but I felt a full timeline was needed, or I would not be doing the situation justice.

REGARDLESS of if Jeff Martin had a "business plan" or not, do I feel that it was a respectable thing for the Bittners to shut him out, and go ahead with the project behind his back? Do I feel that the e-mail to Martin was respectfull in any way? Nope. No way. No how.

Have I lost respect for Mayor Mike Tucker for not keeping Martin informed that the Bitners were continuing. Yes.

As to your own conclusions, I'll let you decide for yourself.

-Erik.

And just to throw it out there:
I will be more than happy to change my opinion if new information comes out that contridicts my current thoughts on this mess.
The idea for a Niagara Wine Shoppe has a very tenuous link to the Niagara River, at best.
I also have no respect for people who feel the need to pretend that there are ghosts in order to keep their product name out there :(Results 1 - 10 of about 357 for ghost "Marjim Manor".). Lies are not a marketing angle.

7/22/2009

Wine Trail Google Map

Posted by MJ


View Wineries in Buffalo Niagara - Niagara Wine Trail in a larger map



Interactive Niagara Wine Trail Google Map taken from the Visit Buffalo Niagara Plotted Theme Maps.

I found this today during lunch and thought I'd share. Map based mashups are very useful from tracking crime to pointing out tourist stops. Hopefully more local entities will find their way to using them in the future.

Hopefully the Wine Emporium can be added to this map next summer.

7/22/2009

YMCA Picks Builder...

Posted by MJ

...for new 8 million dollar facility next to original facility off Main St. in DT after 2 years of design and fundraising. Unfortunately it is the one in Hornell, NY not Lockport. I wonder why the process for our wonderful facility "expansion"  isolated 2 miles away behind a soon to be vacated Wal-Mart is moving so slow? ;) Maybe a grander vision building off the recent growth in DT would inspire people and move it a little faster? I'm a little closer to getting the hypothetical DT Lockport site plans. Stay tuned.

Hornell YMCA Expansion Site Plans

Interactive Map of Hornell Location:

View Larger Map

Buffalo News Article

7/21/2009

New Small-Biz Opportunity Zones

Posted by MJ

(Image: Main St. Lockport at Dusk)

The Buffalo News reports a new policy by the Niagara County IDA for its three cities.

New small businesses in parts of Niagara County’s three cities will have a chance at tax breaks normally reserved for the big boys, under terms of a new policy at the Industrial Development Agency.  At the County Legislature’s request, the IDA worked out a plan for “opportunity zones,” which gives eligible businesses five years of exemption from all property taxes.
--------
In Niagara Falls, the opportunity zones are along Main and Niagara streets and Pine and Highland avenues. Peter Kay, the city’s director of economic development and planning, said under the IDA’s criteria, the zones could have been “practically the whole city, because it was [distressed] census tracts and census tracts adjacent to them. Even DeVeaux Woods would have qualified.” So Niagara Falls decided to limit the zones, too.
“By throwing the whole city into the mix, it would actually harm the intent, because people who were on those [designated] streets could say, ‘I want to go down near the water and I’ll get all these tax breaks,’ ” Kay said.

---------
In Lockport, Tucker isn’t limiting the available areas, but he’s hoping the opportunity zones will help him fill Harrison Place, the former auto parts plant at Walnut and Washburn streets that the city owns after foreclosing on the previous owner.
“I think it certainly can’t hurt,” said Tucker, who also is vice chairman of the IDA. “In these tough times I think it gives us an edge.”
 
It is nice to see a new policy targeting small business in areas of need. As wonderful as it would be to land a Hail Mary of a large new business, it is the small ones that really form the foundation of our economic health.

Some thoughts:

1) Will a portion of the investment be tied in permanent infrastructure improvement? Or in other words, even if the business does not make it, or decides to pick up and leave once the taxes kick in, will we be left with a new or updated building in the city?

2) What do we do to reward those who already took the chance? The article says "new businesses". Is there some other policy that would reward the expansion or large investment in an existing small business?

3) How will this be marketed? Is there a larger plan for what type of development we want to see and where? The article lays out how separate mayors are implimenting the policy. The fact that the entire areas of some are eligible (distressed or near distressed areas) should be eye opening to the need of short range tax sacrifices for long term growth. The growth still will not happen automatically. Focused plans are needed.

4) A system like this is needed for major house renovations etc. The low income housing programs are nice but a middle class is sorely needed for a healthy city and should also be proactively fostered. Move vacant city owned homes for $1 and offer similar tax breaks to reward those who have the means and are willing to take the risk at restoring a home. Strong contracts laying out the obligations a must. The structures are generating zero tax revenue as thay stand and surpressing those nearby.

I've sent an e-mail for more information. I'll post again if I find out anything else.

7/20/2009

Dog Day of Summer Nears

Posted by MJ

The Chet Secrist festival fundraiser this Saturday (7/25) is fast approaching. (Weather Forecast: 82° and sunny!) Info can be found at  Chet's Dog House website which appears to have recieved a nice makeover courtesy of the J. Fitzgerald Group (located next door). Go to the Events Page for the continually updated info.

It appears that Buffalo Sabres Patrick Kaleta and Tim Kennedy and Sabretooth will be signing autographs and available for photos at the Kid’s Carnival. There are also over 250 action/raffle/prize items including autographed Sabres' French Connection poster, Timkey Limo wine tour, etc.

Both the LUSJ and Buffalo News  had interviews with Chet posted this past weekend. Both are interesting reads and give great insight to the power of human relationships and caring for those around us.

We hope to be there Sat AM for some pancakes and with the mutt to make the 1K "Dog" walk an actual dog walk. ;)

7/17/2009

Smart Growth v Wal-Mart III

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ  is reporting that I will continue to be spending my grocery money in Erie County for at least another year.

Legal papers filed this past Monday with the Rochester-based Fourth Department, Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, show Smart Growth wants a rehearing on a portion of its earlier appeal to that court, which claims the town planning and zoning boards violated various laws by approving the Supercenter site plan and associated documents.

If the Fourth Department declines to recommend the waiver question to the Court of Appeals, Smart Growth may then appeal to the court directly. An attorney with knowledge of the process said Wednesday that Smart Growth didn’t have to ask the Rochester court for a referral, but in doing so is able to cause a lengthier delay in Supercenter development.
And so it goes. If it has been kicked out and the confirmed by the appellate court how can they ask for another rehearing? Maybe the town would have it easier just changing the law in question? ;)



In other news  Niagara Falls has a nice new one with wide aisles, skylights etc. If anything this delay will ensure we have the most up to date store layout which has changed a lot since the one in Clarence went up.
 
Having a place to do a majority of grocery shopping near home is the big missing key for us right now. I know we will not be getting a Wegman's ever, but at least get the new Wal-Mart Supercenter going. Aldi and Sav-a-lot prices are not worth the experience and the prices at Tops and Quality just aren't worth it.
 
Maybe the city could strike a deal for the farm land between Summit and Ruhlman?
 
Post and Comments from last year.
 
UPDATE (07/17/09):
The Buffalo News now has an article with some additional information.

Mark Davison, a motions clerk for the Appellate Division, said the court is in its summer hiatus and won’t consider the case until September. He said the soonest a decision could be issued is Oct. 2.
Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said that although Wal-Mart hasn’t moved to complete its purchase of the Lockport Mall on South Transit Road and is not doing demolition work, the retailer is working behind the scenes to advance the project. “Everything will come together at once,” he predicted
Davison said further oral argument in the case will not be allowed. The judges will make their call based only on the papers submitted by Seaman and Smart Growth’s lawyers, Daniel A. Spitzer and Jill L. Yonkers of Buffalo’s Hodgson Russ firm.
“If they find something they’re interested in, they’ll just run with it,” Yonkers said
.
It also seems as if all the points are only technicalities as of now. I wonder why the town just doesn't change the two points that smart Growth is asking to be reconsidered. My thought is it may open the town to a whole new round of lawsuits.
The plaintiffs zeroed in on two aspects of the June 5 ruling. First, the Appellate Division ruled that there was no need for Wal-Mart to obtain a variance from the town’s rule that no more than 75 percent of a lot in its commercial corridor may be covered with buildings, parking lots or “other impervious surface areas.”


However, Smart Growth asserts that the town and Wal- Mart agreed such a variance was needed, but the town never actually granted it, and neither side submitted an argument about it to the court before June 5.

The other point is that the town’s waiver procedure, allowing the Planning Board to give applicants a pass on certain requirements of its Commercial Corridor Overlay District, confuses the functions of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In effect, the plaintiffs argue, such waivers are variances given by a board that lacks the power to grant variances, and thus, they violate state law. That’s why the Court of Appeals should take the case, Smart Growth asserts.

7/16/2009

Recycling Update

Posted by MJ



Both the LUSJ  and the Buffalo News have articles on the city's quest to institute a more comprehensive recycling program. Each paints a different picture on the impact of the cost estimates.

The Buffalo News mentions a creation of a garbage district to more fairly distribute the costs between single and multiple residences.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said he’d like to see multiple dwellings and businesses pay more than ordinary homeowners for recycling. The only legal way to accomplish that is to establish a city garbage district, a proposal that has been floated occasionally for two decades
I have no problem with districts. Most see them as added taxation and thus "bad" and this is not unreasonable at first glance. The populace would have to see detailed numbers showing the reduced tax levy in the general fund. What special districts do allow is the ability for residents to more easily see where their money is going. As is shown with home owner association fees, people are willing to pay extra when they can readily see the results and what is being done with their money.
Other committee members said they want to work on making recycling the more attractive option to property owners. The city has no limits on what, or how much, trash it will collect or who’s allowed to dump; until it does, they suspect, the majority won’t have any economic incentives to recycle. Whether it’s limiting the number of bags per property per week, or requiring every property use a set-size trash can, or limiting municipal pickup for residences only, not businesses or tax-exempt entities, the city’s approach to trash handling needs radical change, they said.




“Where else do you see sinks, couches, mountains of trash set out to the curb and know it’ll all be picked up? It’s like anything goes,” said Dawn Walczak, Niagara County director of environment/solid waste management. “Recycling looks way better (economically) when reduce and reuse go alongside it.”
I was surprised by how encompassing Lockport's garbage pickup still is when I moved here. It is nice but is it the right thing to do, even from just a cost standpoint? The costs have to add up. Also, with how liberal the pickup standards are, I am always curious why people still find a reason to dump things in empty lots etc.

-MJ

7/15/2009

Blog Layout V2.0

Posted by MJ

Image - Original Blog Layout
I updated the blog layout today to something completely different. There are still a few broken links etc. to fish out amongst some other tweaks I will tend to shortly.
I started off with a free template and then went from there. Learn HTML on your own from home. I was better at it about 10 years ago but have not touched the language much since then. Luckily the internet is there to answer all questions.
Some things to note:

  1. The archive of blog posts is at the bottom of the page.

  2. The number of blog posts per page have been reduced to 5 from 10.

  3. Tabs at the top now go directly to Recent Comments and Recent Posts.

  4. There are now "Top" buttons along the way to get back more easily.
Feel free to comment on readability, features, access, etc.
-MJ

7/14/2009

Lockport in Bloom

Posted by MJ

Image - Backyard Sundial - Lockport in Bloom Garden Walk - Jul '09

We finally made it out for the Lockport in Bloom garden walk this past Sunday. I was hoping to get out on Saturday so I could post for Sunday but the weather was not cooperative. We focused on the larger houses on High, Willow, and Locust since we have always been curious about these properties during our walks.


I've been a big fan and repeat visitor of Garden Walk Buffalo (last weekend of July). The primary allure was the the seeds of renewal that the event has helped sow in the area west of Richmond Ave. It has pushed redevelopment and investment past the old invisible wall of Richmond and into the "no hope" west side. In 25 years the tour has gone from 25 properties to over 300. The gardens take years to grow and shape and can not be picked up and moved. Beyond beauty they show commitment of the home owner to the neighborhood at large. Visiting every year shows it is contagious and inertial. If anyone has yet to go, I highly suggest it. I recommend starting at Little Sumner.


The most surprising thing I learned was how magical a place a small urban backyard can be. Lush plantings surround a person on all sides giving the safe cozy feeling of youthful forts made out of blankets. A person is more likely to think they are in a small nook in the woods that in a dens eurban neighborhood. The lots were surprisingly deep on the houses we chose in Lockport and while the landscaping and gardens were beautiful all of that extra space seemed to take away some of the above characteristics.


I have high hopes for our small yard in the years the come. Maybe some day a few years from now you'll see us part of the garden walk. ;) As for Lockport in Bloom, I hope it breeds as much success here as Garden Walk Buffalo has 30 minutes south.


I'll tack some Lockport garden photos onto this post as I work on them.
-MJ

7/13/2009

Union Station Update

Posted by MJ


The Buffalo News has an update on the quest of the Davidsons to restore Union Station.

Some select quotes:

State agencies have rejected three grant applications for restoration of the fire-ravaged Union Station, but the owner said Friday he’s determined it won’t be a case of “three strikes and you’re out.”

Mark Davidson, of Los Angeles, vowed that the $3 million project will be completed under his ownership. “I don’t care if I’m 75 years old,” said Davidson, who’s only 44.


Davidson said private investors have offered him money for a piece of the project, but so far he has turned them down.

“I don’t want to take any funds unless the grants go through,” he said.


Davidson said he and his wife, a Lockport native, are moving here in a couple of months and will enroll their three children, a 6-year-old daughter and 9-and 11- year-old sons, in Lockport public schools. They’ve already bought a house on East Avenue.

“It’ll be more hands-on,” said Davidson, who is retiring from his job as a set decorator in Hollywood studios. However, he said there are a few projects he still needs to finish, so he will commute coast-to- coast for a while.

This project along with a new YMCA [I know they are "too far along" ;)] and ice rink would completely transform the Union/Washburn/Chestnut area. If all were on a quest to move forward and reference each other it would have to help the chances of obtaining grants for each of them. A semi-coordinated effort would be nice to see. A reborn Union Station over looking a cleared Dessault site with playing fields onto the view off of the escarpment would be a beautiful thing.

This article also goes to show the power of raising your children to love and respect where they are from. Instead of raising them to loathe the place and flee forever, try the opposite. They may create something here; even if they choose to leave for a period of time.

-MJ

7/13/2009

History of Landing Yahoo!

Posted by MJ

Buffalo News has a lengthy but interesting article
on how the Yahoo deal got done and eventually ended up here in Lockport.

Some quotes:

Now, BNE could propose six sites, and Yahoo! requested a seventh because it had read news stories about HSBC Bank USA’s now-abandoned data center project in Cambria. Besides that property, BNE offered up Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, Eastport Commerce Park at Walden Avenue and Pavement Road in Lancaster, Riverview Commerce Park in Tonawanda, Buffalo East Technology Park in Pembroke, Medina Business Park, and Lockport Industrial Park.
The Lockport site was actually the last on the tour, which is usually an insurmountable hurdle since a site team is exhausted. What helped was goodwill from another business located in the industrial park, Exel Logistics of Ohio, which welcomed the group into its conference room for refreshments.
“It was a terrible day. It was raining, and cold. It was mid afternoon, and they went into this conference room, and there were snacks and coffee and soft drinks,” Kenyon recalled. “That extension of hospitality, at that point in their visit to Western New York, made a real strong impression on them.”

Yahoo! wanted a lot of power, but for fewer than 125 jobs, Kessel said. It wouldn’t work using the formula of jobs-for-megawatts, but “those ratios just don’t hold in this economy.”
So, he “put that to the side.” He credits the Power Authority staff for getting Yahoo! to increase its jobs projection, but admits that “I would have done anything to get this deal done.”
The questions that remain is what will the City do to make the most of this? Can a grant be found to wire up DT along with the Yahoo! Site? What can we do to get these "high tech" software workers to want to live in the city and become vested in it? When they start to branch off into their own businesses how do we make sure they want to (and are able to) set up in the city? The seeds need to be sown now.

-MJ

7/09/2009

Altro Park Outdoor Movies

Posted by MJ

Image: AltroPark - Free Outdoor Movie Series - Jul '09

Yesterday LUSJ listed the free movie schedule for Altro Park. We have been looking forward to checking it out as it is one of the many things we can do within walking distance of our house and part of what makes living here as nice as it is.
The 2-story screen is much larger than I expected and the sound was easy to hear. The only issue was a tempermental DVD player that would skip once in a while.
The schedule is as follows, all shows starting at dusk.
• July 8: "Hotel for Dogs"
• July 15: “Twilight.”
• July 22: “Madagascar 2.”
• July 29: “Goonies.” - ***rained out***
Aug. 5: “Coraline.”
Aug. 12: “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”
• Aug. 19: Rain date (so I've been told)
I'll also give the listed sponsers a shout, who along with the volunteers make great events like this happen in the city.
Movie showings are paid for by sponsors including Reality Check, Dr. Louis Surace, Eaton Medicine and Accurate Computer Service Inc.
Unlike the concert series, there is no beer, no massive crowd and lots of space for blankets, chairs and playing in the park. I'm looking forward to "Goonies", a childhood favorite.
-MJ

UPDATE (07/15/09)
Interactive Google Map of Altro Park

View Larger Map

7/08/2009

Graffiti Response Plan?

Posted by MJ


The picture above shows "recent" graffiti in the Genesee area. It has been there for several weeks now since it was reported in the LUSJ that city hall was also the sprayed down. Several other properties were hit on Genesse alone though I don't recall the paper mentioning any of it besides city hall.






I've always been pleasantly surprised by the lack of graffiti in Lockport (except for maybe the parking garage). This is quite sad to see that not one of these instances have been cleaned up yet since they have happened and it is quite concerning considering the governmental function of keeping the city clean and safe. And not just actual safety but also perceived safety which affects a lot of people's decision of where they choose to live and how they treat the area they live in (broken window theory/demoralization). It has been demonstrated that these small things correlate with higher rates of more serious crime.

Charleston S. Carolina has a policy where they stock over 40 paint colors and on the same day of a report (from an officer or the public) and an officer and state prisoner is sent out around at 4:30 to quickly paint them over. Even in the poorest parts of town graffiti does not exist for more than 24 hours on public or private property. Quite the deterrent and show of concern and action by the city. A morale builder.

Does anyone think something like this would work in Lockport? A 24 hr response may be too much to ask but the several weeks that have since passed is not too much to expect it to be gone by now? Maybe it is from lack of knowledge of its existence but I assume its from the lack of a plan. Why not prisoners/community service or city employees (I know, work limiting rules ;) or even just supplying volunteers and giving them the tools and authority? With the lack of graffiti overall in Lockport I do not see it as being all that hard to keep up on, even weekly. But a lack of response will most likely breed more the longer it sits. The Genessee area is in quite the tough spot as it is. This newest addition is not going to do it any favors. Also, what about the responsibility of property owners to correct the damage?


In addition to the stuff on Genessee there are also instances downtown on old ramp and behind the Clinton Building on Main St. Both of these are visible from the canal.



Not the best image to present tourists nor residents while visiting the "biggest draw" in the city.

I usually like to focus on the "prettier" stuff but thought I would look into this. I've sent an email or two. Instances like these are great steps to developing plans for the future.
-MJ

7/07/2009

Reassasment on hold again...

Posted by Black Phillip

Nice.


According to The Buffalo News, reassessment is on hold again (still?).
The city’s long-postponed property reassessment probably won’t happen until 2011, Mayor Michael W. Tucker and acting Assessor Joseph Macaluso agreed last week.

Before it happens, the city needs to hire a private company to carry out field work on every property, Macaluso said.
With the boondoggle that was the last round of assessments, the longer we wait, the better. Because that gives me the hope that it will be done right. Not a scatter shot of assessments. Not assessments that use houses that are in better neighborhoods for a comparison value. An honest and fair assessment. That's all we wanted before, and that's all we want now.

(Of course, I'd rather property taxes be based on the actual property, not the structures on the property, because the current way does not encourage development and improvements, but I digress.)

(And as a second digression, according to the Buffalo News Sunday paper, they will be allowing comments on all articles. Humm. Now I wonder what newspaper values me as a consumer of their product? But again, I'm digressing.)

Erik.

7/06/2009

Wait, what?

Posted by Black Phillip


Really?

I just picture someone clicking "No" while muttering "Hey you kids, stop having fun".

At the risk repeating myself (if you read comments), I have to say that this years fireworks were VERY impressive.  Much better than the past few years.

All the better reason to stop them now, right?

(sigh)

Erik.

7/06/2009

Introduction...

Posted by Black Phillip


Hello.

When the Union Sun & Journal forms closed, I decided to take up MJ's open offer when he started this blog, that he was always open for more posters.  So, here I am.

So let me give you a quick introduction.  I've lived in Lockport all my life (some 30+ years), and within the past few years, I've been lucky enough to work in Lockport as well.  I have also lived in a few different sections of the city.  I grew up during the days of a vibrant active Lockport Mall, and an empty field where WalMart is now. There have been a LOT of changes to Lockport throughout my life.  Sadly, most of them have been in rather recent history.  Sadly, because it took a long time for someone to try to bring Lockport out from under the rock that we had hidden ourselves in.  So it's been rather exciting times for a lifer like myself.

As a matter of fact, what caused me to finally register to the US&J forum was so I could be one of the few supporters (at least on that forum) of the Flight of Five project.  Having lived along the canal in the 'touristy' section of town, it's amazing to see how many people come to visit the canal, and any money spent to encourage people to come, and anything we can do to make sure they spend more time, is money well spent.

Enough with my babbling, thanks for putting up with me, and thanks to MJ for getting this all started.


Erik.

7/06/2009

Anonymous Comments

Posted by MJ

Image - Photo merge of Outwater Fireworks and Main St. Jul '09


I've enabled anonymous commenting to possibly bring more people into the fold. I appreciate all feedback and conversation. Comments were initially restricted due to the true poor behavior on the LUSJ forums last fall. That behavior has been absent for quite awhile and I've always hated to make people to sign up for another account they may not have. If everything stays respectfulI'll keep commenting set up this way.

Image above is from a walk last night and the fireworks on Sat. Not much scenery at Outwater Park to compose around so I had the idea last night to merge a firework shot with a DT night scene.

7/05/2009

Happy 4th! Where's the Music?

Posted by MJ

Image - Fireworks at Outwater Park - Lockport NY Jul '09


I hope everyone is having a great Independence Day weekend.

After much debate we chose to go to the city's firework show. (We debated Amherst/Royalton Revene for various reasons.) It's a nice show though this year the music was missing. I recall last year a band being there in the city "stage" trailer. Like a movie, one does not notice the absence of a background score until you watch something without it. It really adds to the experience.

I hope it returns for next year.

(Above image is from my first attempts at firework photography last night. I wish I had brought a different lens ;. This is one of my favs.)

7/02/2009

Downtown Signage

Posted by MJ

Image: Clinton Building at Main and Cottage - Jun '09

On one of our walks I noticed quite a few new signs around the downtown area. The Clinton building is a nice example of old and new. The learning Edge and John Sansone Law Office both have new signs based off of one of the iterations of the new DT sign law. Both look nice though the size/form of the law office one doesn't really compliment the shape of the area where it is mounted. Nothing majorly wrong, just a small point to note.

Tom's existing sign, while gimmicky (juke box) and not "historically colored", is nicely sized, painted and mounted perpendicular to the building (my preference for urban signage). I think it works well.

Scrito's current sign is a byproduct of 1950's signage based off of cars zipping by non-descript buildings at 50 mph instead of the current 25 mph posted on Main St. It overbears the building and takes away from it along with looking cheap. I think 9 years are left to replace it under the current law ;)

I felt the current sign law was a little restrictive in laying out colors, limiting logo's etc. I feel the key to a tasteful sign is the quality of construction and the sign's scale to the building frontage. Signs like Tom's and Chet's are not very historic and maybe would not even pass under the current law but still look great. Creativity and branding should not be stifled for the business owners. 20' golden arches should be a no-no where as 3' ones on a sign should be OK. The Elmwood Village Guidelines in Buffalo lay this out very well. Perhaps I'll get around to posting something on them.

I'm curious to see what the Aaron's signage will look like at Walnut and S. Transit.


7/01/2009

First Kodachrome Now the LUSJ Forums?

Posted by MJ

It appears the LUSJ forums have been discontinued. The forums return an error and there are no "comment on this" links in the articles at the main LUSJ site.

A temporary"oops"? Or has Tim had enough of our "input"? ;)

7/01/2009

Old Kenyon's Becoming an Aaron's?

Posted by MJ

Old Kenyon's work as of 6/29


Google Street View of Old Kenyon's

I noticed recently that the overhaul of the old Kenyon's at Walnut and Transit becomes more and more intensive. Not only is the inside being redone but the the outside is also getting a redo with only the brick portions remaining untouched. A nice touch is the full floor to ceiling windows that have gone in along Walnut Street.

Word is that Aaron's (rent to own) is moving here from the current location in the plaza down S. Transit Street. While I was hoping for something unique to go in here (I live within walking distance) I am at least happy to see the building occupied and receiving new investment. Most of us would agree that these types of stores are a sign of weak income levels nearby and probably not the type of store one would want as the gateway to DT. As DT grows other uses could follow and the invesment should be welcomed. It is a better fit here then say on Canal St.

For a non-historic structure the design is notable in that the extra store fronts (occupied) facing Saxton are a nice touch to keep eyes and activity along both streets. It would be nice if this building (and a few others) would have have been built to interact with the canal more, similar to the structures across from it on W. Main St. It is possible to travel through Lockport on the canal and pretty much miss it.

I'm curious to see what the new signage looks like since I think this area falls into the DT signage district.

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