2/25/2010

Final Denial for Smart Growth.

Posted by MJ



Smart Growth the group, not the planning theory. ;) LUSJ reported.

The long legal ordeal between Lockport Smart Growth, the Town of Lockport and Walmart may finally have come to an end.

The state’s Court of Appeals denied an appeal by Smart Growth, the name by which local opponents of a Walmart supercenter are known. The court handed down its decision Tuesday, defeating a pair of motions made by Smart Growth.
Upwards and onwards....?

UPDATE:12/25/10
The Buffalo News also reported.

In the wake of the latest court decision, Seaman said the town hopes Walmart can begin construction this year.
A Walmart spokesman said the company hopes to start construction in late summer or early fall.

“There are still, however, some outstanding issues with the current owner of the property,” Philip Serghini said in an e-mail, “which, if not resolved, could extend that timeline.”

2/25/2010

Chapman Criticizes Canal St.

Posted by MJ



LUSJ reported that last night Chapman (4th Ward) criticized the potential sale of Canal St. to InLighten.

Behind the scenes, several city officials said, Chapman has been highly critical of Greater Lockport Development Corp.’s desire to sell four Canal Street properties to inLighten, a global digital media technologies company.

Out front Wednesday, Chapman proposed that when city-owned property is up for sale or lease, the Council should set “parameters” for the negotiations, not leave them to the GLDC board of directors, alone.
 While I'm not opposed to Chapman's desires (it is good to have some benchmarks) I fail to see the downside of 100 higher paying jobs and a million plus in investment in the downtown core. While the "tourist" aim got us the funding to clean up the block, the isolation of the street from the rest of downtown, the missing buildings in the street scape and the fact that the largest building mid block has not store frontage the aim was not on the mark for the best use without further build out of the block. The wine emporium at the Pine St. end would have been nice but it can do just as well on Main st. It is not like the buildings are being sold cheap to make a dollar store.

Concentrate the commercial interests along Main St. It has a lot of continuity gaps that still need to be filled in with people drawing uses. Let canal street get back into private hands, grow jobs that will pay much more than retail and get 100 more people downtown on a daily business. Move the gazebo to allow for a new building. It can be part of any new green space at the parking ramp site.

The problem with envelopes: Somebody has to foot the bill for interior buildout, either the tenant/buyer or GLDC. The agency doesn’t have the cash — and neither, it seems, do most small businesspeople who’ve expressed interest in a building.

Late last year, inLighten proposed buying all four buildings, for $100,000, and investing $1.5 million in development of new company headquarters on the block. The Depew-based business would move 70 jobs here and create 25 new jobs, according to its proposal. Its annual payroll is said to be about $4.5 million; and the paychecks go to engineers, software developers and programmers, tech support specialists, editorial staff.

“Nobody else has come running to us and said, ‘We’ll put a million dollars into this,’” GLDC board member Chris Boron said.

Nobody else has proposed a business that would bring 100 jobs and year-round additional foot traffic downtown, either, Murphy said...
UPDATE: 02/25/10
The Buffalo News also reported

As company officials consider other locations, Aldermen Andrew D. Chapman and Joseph D. Kibler raised the issue over the site included in a potential deal to attract inLighten, a digital screen maker.
Chapman said he would prefer a tourism-related use for Canal Street, telling other city leaders his “dream” would be to have an offshoot of Rochester’s Strong Museum locate in the spot that has been the subject of negotiations between the Greater Lockport Development Corp. and inLighten since late last year.
Let's keep dancing around while some other area lays out the welcome mat and we lose out. With inLighten, MTC etc we could maybe start branding the city as a place to do 21st century business (or at the least 20th). The effort should be to get the same lines Yahoo is getting ran to and thru DT. Actively market it and the companies that would now be here. I know of one software company (was on Robinson) that left the town because the data lines were not fast enough for their remote programming etc. More 50k+ jobs out of Lockport and off to Amherst.

Tourist Canal St was a nice (if unrealistically hopeful idea.) We've had a much better one knock on our door. Don't chase it away. Pull it in and lock the door behind it. ;) A healty 21st century corporate presence DT will go a lot farther in impressing visitors than another restuarant and antique shop.

2/23/2010

Obscura Day

Posted by Black Phillip

And now, for something a bit different.

One of the regular blogs that I read is Atlas Obscura (note: not necessarily safe for work) "A compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities and esoterica".  They are sponsoring a world-wide event called Obscura Day on March 20th.  From Toronto to Tokyo, there are special events taking place at locations features on their website.

And just what that has to do with this blog?

Over in Niagara Falls, at the Niagara Science Museum they are taking part in Obscura Day.

For more information about the Museum:
Official Site
Wikipedia
Buffalo News

Event Details

The event is free (but donations accepted) and is limited to 30 people.  So if you are intrested, please make sure to register.

-Erik

2/21/2010

Lockport Catholics Wary?

Posted by MJ

Buffalo News Reported.

Closing churches has been a source of angst and anger in the historically Catholic-rich city of Lockport for more than two years.
Now, though, the planned Easter Sunday opening of an evangelical Christian church has heightened the sensitivities of some Catholics.
The Chapel at CrossPoint, an Amherst megachurch, will launch a satellite campus in April, using the Palace Theatre and a former post office, both on Main Street in the heart of Lockport.
At least one Catholic priest views the move as an effort to scoop up disenfranchised Catholics in the community, and he's warned his parishioners about it.

All Saints posting of Rev Waite's bulletin message.

I could not find the video referenced (only a couple links to pulled videos). If anyone does feel free to post the link.

UPDATE: 2/23/10
Video 1 - Chapel Message on Lockport
Video 2 - Chapel Message about Palace and Old Post Office

As I've said before, it will be nice to have more people DT. The work being done the Palace in lieu of rent and another tenant (with money) are also pluses.

2/16/2010

Shrinking Ramp

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that the council will be looking at ways to trim the parking ramp project at their session tomorrow.

The city’s parking ramp project needs to be scaled back, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said last week, and the Common Council will discuss how to do that during a work session Wednesday.
Tucker said there’s a chance the city may settle for fewer parking spaces than the 200 that were proposed by Foit-Albert & Associates, the design firm working on the replacement for the city’s downtown parking ramp.
In a meeting with Foit-Albert last week, Tucker said, he told them the city can’t afford the $10 million plan the firm has submitted.
“There’s no way we’re spending $10 million,” Tucker said.
The portions of the project include $700,000 to tear down the existing ramp, closed since August 2006 because of crumbling concrete; $1.7 million to install a street-level park in the space, leading to the Erie Canal overlook; and $8 million to construct a two-level underground parking garage with some surface parking on top....
My feelings from my last post remain:

This project, while forward thinking in creating the park on top, is not worthwhile on its own. The area where the ramp is located is surrounded by developments with their own parking (Lockview Plaza, Ulrich City Center, Canal St). The empty pay lots during the Molson Canal Concerts show there is plenty of free parking around to handle a large influx of people. A ramp is viable if the surrounding area is dense. There is no density here and dropping the thought of adding structures on top of it will not add any.What is left is a ramp for the Urban Park Towers and Ulrich Development/Mills Jewelers....
I'd suggest removing the current ramp and supplying a nicely landscaped surface lot on Pine. Keep the retaining wall  (or move the portion of it along Main St back 30' or so and create a simple "park" down to the "overlook". Move the Gazebo on Canal St over to it so that the area on Canal could be open for possible future private development by Inlighten. Any multi-level structure is a waste with no plans to densify the immediate area.
 
Old posts on the ramp are here.

UPDATE 02/18/10:
LUSJ reporting on council discussion:

...All three plans call for tearing the ramp down, which would cost about $700,000.
• The first plan, which Tucker called the most expensive and therefore the least likely to be approved, called for a parking lot with an underground level. There would be a seating area and a park on the surface area. The council decided not to hear any details on the first plan.

• Plan two would call for just a surface parking lot with no levels underground and about 50 to 60 parking spaces available. As in the other two plans, people could still use the Electric Building to overlook the Erie Canal. There might be some landscaping done, but no park would be built. Tucker said the plan was the least expensive and something the council should consider.
• Plan three would be the creation of a small lot located behind some of the Main Street businesses. The lot would hold 25 to 35 parking spaces and feature a small park. Council members directed Tucker to work with Foit-Albert and provide details of the second and third plans.
Common Council President Richelle Pasceri, 1st Ward alderwoman, said where the ramp is located is an important spot for those who come into Lockport. People could park there and be close to tourist destinations....

I vote for number three. As useless as the ramp is, it does lend some scale to the street that an asphalt lot would not. Leave space along Main for future development possibilities and use it as some green space in the mean time. We've done fine without the ramp for a few years now. Let's not pave over more than is necessary. There is plenty of parking on Pine St itself for visitors.

2/15/2010

More Harrison Place Studies

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reported:

Environmental testing will be done at Harrison Place this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced.
The Harrison Place complex, formerly home of the Harrison Radiator main plant, is considered a brownfield. It is being investigated to determine if contamination exists that could impede re-use....

Its nice to see the comment about marketing it as lofts, though I doubt there is a well laid out plan to "make it happen".
...Harrison Place is owned by Greater Lockport Development Corp. and managed by Mancuso Business Development Group of Batavia. The complex is mostly vacant, but some small business and individual tenants are renting space in parts of it. Mancuso is marketing the complex as suitable for office, commercial, industrial or loft occupation. Meanwhile, the city secured a $1.5 million grant from the state to undertake roofing, elevator and sprinkler systems repairs. Exterior paint on the complex was refreshed late last year
The western building is perfectly situated for them. Re-establish Elm St through to South St. to bring back some lost connectivity. Long blocks are activity killers. Bring some up do dat eliving options to the city and get some more people DT.

2/15/2010

Term Limit Hearing/Vote Coming.

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reported a public comment session and council vote are coming on term limits.

...The arguments raised for and against term limits locally are fairly standard.
Proponents say term limits would encourage more people to run for city offices, by clearing the path of incumbents every so often. They say incumbents enjoy electoral advantages — name recognition, political clout and greater campaign resources — that discourage competitive elections.
Term limits also would break up the “good ol’ boys club,” Willow Street resident Jean Kiene said.
It’s too easy (for incumbents) to get complacent and just go with the old boys; you can’t help but become jaded, or too close to the employees to put (residents) first,” she said. “A new broom sweeps clean.”
Opponents of term limits don’t dislike them across the board. They frequently favor term-limiting state and federal elected offices but assert it’s not necessary at the local level. PACs and special interest groups don’t buy clout in a small city like Lockport, they say; election campaigns are grass-roots and low-cost. The citizen legislature — by the people, for the people — still directs local government; term limits compromise the ideal by limiting people’s choices...


As I mentioned before, I don't see the need for term limits in a small area like this where you could walk over to the person's house or easily see them down at city hall. On the state and ferderal level I feel the opposite is true and somthing like this would be beneficial.

UPDATE 02/18/10:
LUSJ report on vote delay
Buffalo News report on vote delay

2/11/2010

Valentine's Chocolate Tasting

Posted by MJ

Lockport Main St. Inc has put together a chocolate tasting this Sat. Yummy treats and gift ideas throughout the city.

From their e-mail:

Attached is a flyer for the “A Taste of Chocolate in Lockport” event this Saturday...
Hope to see you all in downtown Lockport this Saturday, February 13th for this “tasty” event and the YMCA’s 39th annual Lockport Y-10! Runners will leave the Lockport YMCA, 19 East Ave in at 11:00 AM. Chocolate tasting starts at 12:00 noon at participating businesses.

2/09/2010

School Reuse

Posted by MJ

The Lockport School District reveals which school it is looking to close tomorrow. Over the weekend I had planned on doing some research on school reuse but never really got around to it. An internet search revealed a surprisingly large amount of instances of municipalities trying to firgure out what to do with old schools.

A few are:
Portland Maine
Washington DC
Kasson City

A lot of them reference reuse studies. I hope the school district and the city have something lined up for discussion of the fate of the closed building. My initial thoughts are an old school in a real estate market such as Lockport will most likley hold a negative net worth for any use beyond a school. While it would be nice for the district to see some money from the transaction the greater gain, (or loss) in worth will be experienced by the neighborhood around the structure. The city and district should see that something is set up to promote a reuse. A boarded building or if demoed, an empty lot will most likely see a run similar to the 30yr one of the South Block. But what should the reuse be?

If they close Washington Hunt, I'd be happy if the hospital took responsibility for it and its upkeep. Use it for future expansion of outpatient services or for 3rd party medical office space.

If they close John Pound, I'd be happy if the city were to work with a local developer to transition the structure to residential. Yahoo, Inlighten, and other companies will most likely contain a demographic of people looking for newer up to date loft-type living. It is one block from S. Transit and 3 blocks from Main. As far as I know the city (nor the town) can not offer anything like that. An example from Buffalo is here.

Is Charlotte Cross considered a "school" in this discussion? If closed I could see it as the new location of the Lockport Police Dept. It has been known that the police are looking for a space of their own (like a portion of the old Harrison plant) in light of the space squeeze going on at city hall. Why not adapt an old school on a main city street? They could also keep the gym open for some youth programs.

I tried to stick to something that would fulfill an existing need without adding new cost loads (such as stand alone community centers, etc.) Any other initial thoughts out there?

We shall see what the city or district has to say tomorrow night.

Update 02/11/10.
LUSJ reporting no decision yet.
Buffalo News reporting possible two schools could be closed

2/08/2010

Lockport and the Wine Trail

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported another article on the Niagara Wine Trail. Another year has gone by and I still feel a huge opportunity is being missed by not branding Lockport as the epicenter of the trail.

Now with the Canal St buildings possibly going to InLighten, is there any hope for the rebirth of the original (and best) Wine Emporium idea submitted by Martin?

The larger and more established the trail grows every year the bigger the loss for Lockport not tying itself into it from the start. At the same time the risk of another municipality running with it grows.

2/04/2010

Churches and Alcohol

Posted by MJ


I looked up the liquor laws refered to in the LUSJ article about the "Church at the Palace".

The laws can be found here: Click on "ABC".

Article 5, Part 64, Section 7 has some references to the proximity to churches:

7. No retail license for on-premises consumption shall be granted for any premises which shall be


(a) on the same street or avenue and within two hundred feet of a building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship or

(b) in a city, town or village having a population of twenty thousand or more within five hundred feet of three or more existing premises licensed and operating pursuant to this section and sections sixty-four-a, sixty-four-b, sixty-four-c, and/or sixty-four-d of this article;
(c) the measurements in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision are to be taken in straight lines from the center of the nearest entrance of the premises sought to be licensed to the center of the nearest entrance of such school, church, synagogue or other place of worship or to the center of the nearest entrance of each such premises licensed and operating pursuant to this section and sections.......
I'm no lawyer but it appears that the structure needs to be exclusively for church or church functions. I'd say both the Palace and the Old Post Office would not fit these terms. It also says same street or avenue so I don't think that the proposed Ice Arena would be affected since it is on Chestnut Street even if either structure was a single use church. Anyone have any thoughts? I suppose the city attorneys would know best though. ;)

The Molson Canal Concert Series also is a pre-existing use so I do not see a threat there either. The entrance to entrance distance along Main St is more than 200ft from both the Palace and the Old Post Office so I think it falls out of the range anyways.

2/04/2010

Elementary School Closure?

Posted by MJ

 

View Larger Map

LUSJ reported that the Lockport School District is considering closing one of the neighborhood elementary schools due to state budget cutbacks and budget increases.

In light of hard financial times and a state budget crisis, Lockport City Schools will be making some difficult cuts that could result in the closing of an elementary school.
Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone told the Board of Education on Wednesday that the district is facing some difficult decisions with the 2010-11 school year budget. Under Gov. David Paterson’s proposed budget, Lockport is facing a cut of $3.9 million in state aid, on top of $4 million in increased costs.
“That translates to a seven-digit number in cuts — that’s in the millions,” Carbone said. “This is not an area where we want to overburden taxpayers. We also want to maintain, as much as possible, the quality programs for the youth of this community. Balancing that is going to be difficult — painful, quite frankly.”
Carbone shared some possible cuts to ease the burden, including closing one of the district’s seven elementary schools....

I hate to see one have to close as I love the neighborhood aspect of the elementary schools. Has anyone heard anything about which elementary school it may be?

2/04/2010

Beast of Burden

Posted by MJ

Not the 'Stones song but an ultra-marathon (100 mile) scheduled to be ran along the canal towpath at the end of the month. Both the Buffalo News and LUSJ  reported:

The Beast of Burden Winter 100-Miler and 24-Hour Ultra Marathon will be run later this month between Lockport and Middleport….
…According to Pasceri, every ultra distance marathon (50 miles or more) has a unique feature: It’s run in the desert, through mountains or Death Valley, about the hottest place in the continental United States. The Beast of Burden run will be unique for following the Erie Canal towpath in winter.
“It’s already been deemed the official Winter 100 nationally and it hasn’t even happened yet,” Pasceri said.
The City of Lockport is signing on as a Winter 100 supporter, by allowing the restroom facilities and pavilion at Widewaters Marina to be used by racers. The facilities will be de-winterized and heated for the event, the Common Council decided by unanimous vote Wednesday.

The Winter 100 course consists of 12.5 miles of canal towpath between Widewaters and Middleport. Contestants will be challenged to run it forth and back, four times, in 24 hours or less. Middleport Fire Hall will be open to the runners throughout the race, Pasceri said…..
This is a great, unique event building off of what mother nature gives us in the winter. Kudos to Pasceri for imagining it and putting it together here in Lockport. Hopefully it is the start of many more. Not just for this event, but for any others that could add a unique flavor to our winters here in Lockport.


Official Winter-100 website.

2/03/2010

"Adopt-a-Park"?

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reported on 3rd Ward Alderman McKenzie's idea to establish an adopt-a-park system similar to the one used by the county to help keep street right-of-ways clean.

Third Ward Alderman Flora McKenzie is spearheading the launch of an “adopt a park/street” program throughout the city.

It’ll be similar to the Adopt-A-Highway program in which volunteer groups “adopt” stretches of road and keep the rights-of-way next to them cleared of litter.

McKenzie is hoping businesses and volunteer associations will step up for city parks as well as streets. Invitations to adopt one will be going out on city letterhead soon, she said Friday.
 This will be a nice start to formalizing volunteer efforts in Lockport's parks but it can and should go much farther. Though it may have to wait until the next AFSCME barganing session.

Volunteers would be restricted to picking up litter only, he added, to avoid potential conflicts with AFSCME, the union representing city streets and parks employees.

“There would not be any painting, mowing or tree trimming. I don’t need that,” Hoffman said.
Childrens' Park at Lincoln and S. Transit shows what can be done when volunteers are given more freedom to work. Longer term, the model should be open to other people/groups looking to do the same with other city parks.

2/01/2010

InLighten Moves Forward

Posted by MJ



The Buffalo News reported that law changes at the GLDC will allow the process to move ahead:

The city’s economic development agency took action Thursday that will make it easier to sell the Canal Street block to a Depew high-tech company looking to relocate.
The Greater Lockport Development Corp., at its annual meeting, passed new incorporation documents for itself that include a new provision, authorized by state law, that allows the agency to acquire property from the city for $1 and resell it at less than market value.
That’s exactly what the plan is for the deal with inLighten, the Depew digital screenmaker that plans to bring 70 existing jobs to Lockport and create 30 new ones within three years....
 I really hope this goes through. Some nice paying jobs DT and possible new residents are a plus. The question needs to be how to we sell them on the city? The city needs to plan for it.

One hangup on the deal was the large gazebo, funded through $105,000 in state grants, which is located between two of the buildings. Ottaviano learned that the state regards that as public parkland, which would require an act of the State Legislature before the city could sell it.
Ottaviano said inLighten wanted the land for possible expansion of the buildings, but Tucker said, “The gazebo’s off the table. The gazebo’s going to stay where it is.”
 This gazebo needs to be moved, especially if it is going to inhibit new development down the road. Place it over next to Urban Park Towers and incorporate it into whatever happens down at the parking ramp.Get people hanging out on Main St where the businesses are; not over on the other side of the canal once a business is there.

Last post on the topic.

2/01/2010

St. Mary's Loses Appeal.

Posted by MJ



Both the Buffalo News and the LUSJ have reported on St. Marys losing their first appeal on the Bishop,s order to merge with All Saints.

The appeal by St. Mary’s Church to the Vatican to stay open has been denied, but the Catholic parish on the Big Bridge will not go gently into the night.

The Rev. Gary Kibler got word Thursday from canon lawyer Philip Gray that the Congregation for the Clergy, which oversees parishes, decided to uphold Bishop Edward Kmiec’s 2007 decision to close St. Mary’s.

On Saturday, the 15-member St. Mary’s strategic committee decided to take its case to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura if necessary. That’s the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church.

Parishioners heard the word at 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturday and supported the decision to continue the appeal...
 It would be a shame to see a viable parish have to close its doors. Especially so when it is an iconic structure that is part of the scenery of the Flight of Five and logos incorporating such. Hopefully they will succeed as the catholic church can be picky when it comes to building reuse and it is nice to have in the neighborhood with the services they offer.