It certainly could be. That's Alan Hastings' plan. The Silo Restaurant proprietor has recently taken over the historic Frontier House. He reopened the parking lot and is working with the Village of Lewiston and local elected leaders to convert the building into a microbrewery, restaurant and inn.
This drawing represents Hastings' plan for 460 Center St.
June 21, 2014
by Joshua Maloni
In a pre-election interview with a daily newspaper, Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano was quoted as saying he was disappointed in what he termed "lack of movement" at the historic Frontier House on Center Street. Collesano said he "was becoming very discouraged" and had a "disappointing" meeting with Frontier House President Alan Hastings. He called for action by the end of June.
Hastings told the Sentinel he didn't appreciate Collesano's comments, and wants to set the record straight on the Frontier House, which is owned by his father, Richard Hastings.
"I have been spending my own money marketing Lewiston as a whole," said Hastings, who operates the successful Silo Restaurant on Water Street. Of the Frontier House, he said, "I'm trying to bring us a microbrewery, which would complete our hospitality offerings. I'm pounding the pavement trying to get financing for the Frontier House, to save it, preserve it, and make it something we can all be proud of."
There's no debating the Frontier House needs repairs. Hastings said he's doled out considerable money in the past year to ensure the building doesn't further deteriorate.
"I've spent $50,000 on this effort in the last nine months, $20,000 on the roof alone," he said. "I know this is bigger than I can handle alone. I've employed Stacey (Sheehan), who has been working steadily at this for a year. She has written grants, a business plan, historical tax credits, partnerships, successfully explored all of our possible paths, come up with creative solutions, but Mayor Collesano seems very disinterested. I've closed businesses, sold properties, shelved other endeavors. I'm trying here. It's fine if he doesn't want to assist; he isn't obligated. But what bothers me is his (comments), acting as though he has done something - anything - to move us forward on the project."
Hastings said he offered to sell the Village of Lewiston the Frontier House parking lot. He has allowed the municipality to use it, and he said he offered it to Collesano at a reasonable price.
"In no uncertain terms, he said they couldn't afford it," Hastings said. "Stacey and I met with him. We were surprised he wasn't more interested, given all the complaints about lack of Center Street parking."
In the article, Collesano mentioned the village's efforts to find additional parking spaces. Hastings said the acquisition of the Frontier House parking lot would help in that endeavor while providing him with additional resources to fix the building.
"He could have greatly relieved parking congestion, and with the proceeds I could have made a dent in restoring the building," Hastings said. "It was a perfect scenario. I guess maybe he doesn't really understand the parking concerns? I don't know. I'd like to see a mayor go talk to the businesses on issues like this, when designating spending and budget, and ask them, 'Would a centralized municipal parking lot be helpful to you? How would it affect your business? Should I make this a priority? Would you support this purchase knowing it would break ground on restoring The Frontier House?' "
Collesano suggested his comments were made a month before the article was published.
"Things have transpired since then that changes a little bit," he said, though he didn't elaborate. He added, "I don't think there's a disagreement (with Hastings)."
"I still would like something by the end of this month," Collesano said. He wouldn't say if that was a progress report or some additional building repairs.
With regard to Hastings' offer to sell the Frontier House parking lot to the village, Collesano said, "No one's come back on that. That was just a brainstorming thing that was thrown out there."
When asked if the Village Board would consider such an offer, the mayor said, "It's something we could look at, but I don't know if that's going to be in the picture with what could happen in the next couple days."
by Joshua Maloni
Alan Hastings, pictured, president of the historic Frontier House, reached an agreement with the Village of Lewiston this week to re-open the Frontier House parking lot to municipal traffic.
"From day one, I thought it was important to keep the parking open," Hastings said. "It's just the first step in going in the direction that we want to go."
Hastings intends to convert the Frontier House into a brewpub and inn.
The west end of the parking lot is now open. The east end, directly behind and to the right of the building (drive-thru side), will open in the near future, once some additional cleanup is completed.
The Village of Lewiston Department of Public Works employees completed some patchwork Wednesday to ensure the lot could re-open to the public.
The Silo Restaurant proprietor has high hopes for historic Lewiston property
Article and photos by Joshua Maloni
Alan Hastings has made a name for himself on the Lewiston waterfront, working with his father, Richard, to transform a coal silo into one of the village's most popular restaurants.
Now, he hopes to do the same with the long-dormant Frontier House.
Alan, who runs The Silo Restaurant, was recently named president of the Frontier House, the historic building that sits in the middle of Center Street's business district. His father, through Hastings Niagara, gave him operational control of the building, which was erected in 1824 and served as a lodging spot for historical figures such as Gov. DeWitt Clinton, James Fenimore Cooper and Charles Dickens.
As first reported last summer in the Sentinel, Hastings intends to put a microbrewery and restaurant in the Frontier House.
"I really think this is the perfect fit for the Frontier House and for Lewiston," he said Wednesday. "I've got my parents on board. They've turned over control (and) decision-making of the Frontier House. My dad's going to be involved with the engineering ... but he is stepping back and really letting me take over."
"Right now, the hurdle is going to be getting public support and some badly needed grant money and some financing," he said.
That is, in part, because Hastings' idea does not include the condominium component his father and EI Team President Hormoz Mansouri previously proposed for the parking lot area. Moving forward with a microbrewery means the Frontier House would need those spaces.
Hastings said, "I am working really hard" to offset the loss of potential revenue. "I know how important parking is - especially in the heart of Lewiston, and for this business. So, I'm trying to find a way to make it economical to keep the parking lot open and come up with the funds to develop the Frontier House into a brewpub."
The elephant in the room, of course, is the fact McDonald's pulled out of the building in 2004 and, since then, the structure has deteriorated. Each floor has cracked or exposed walls, missing paint and piles of dirt and dust. The exterior needs a complete revamp.
Earlier this summer, the Village of Lewiston entered into discussions with Richard Hastings to obtain the Frontier House. This action, Mayor Terry Collesano said in July, was to put the municipality in a position where it could apply for state and federal grants to refurbish the building. Namely, the Village Board was applying for a $3.8 million grant from the state Department of Transportation. That sum breaks down to $750,000 to purchase the building, and the rest to restore it.
Richard Hastings recently sent trustees a letter of intent to sell the property to the village. Should the Village Board be awarded and accept the DOT grant, and buy the Frontier House, it would be required to use the building for the public good (educational purposes). In other words, trustees could, for example, move the Lewiston Council on the Arts inside the building.
That strategy has become "Plan B." On Monday, Collesano, speaking on behalf of the board, said trustees are in favor of Hastings' proposal to convert the Frontier House into a brewpub.
"We are very happy with this idea, if its goes through," he said. "A microbrewery with private monies going in would eliminate the village of responsibility of buying the property and taking it off the tax rolls."
"Private enterprise would be much better. ... The Village Board endorses this venture. We would endorse it whole-heartedly, because we want to see private money going into the village," he added.
Collesano said the board is "cautiously optimistic."
"Our main intent is to get some activity in that building, and to save that building, because everyone agrees it is the crown jewel of Lewiston," he said.
"Opening a microbrewery has always been a dream of mine," Hastings said. "What a perfect location, and a perfect town, to do it in. It's really, really, an exciting project for me."
Of course, if Hastings keeps the Frontier House, finding grant money will become more difficult.
"That's the real challenge," he said. "It's definitely going to require everybody's support. You know, right now I'm just exploring different options. I haven't come up with a solution. I'm applying for grants."
"I have been approached by several people who are interested in being silent partners and participating partners," he said.
There is a "strong possibility" Hastings could work with the Village of Lewiston on a restoration plan.
The way in which the DOT grant is structured, the village couldn't use the Frontier House for retail purposes unless it gave back an equal sum of grant money. So, if the grant is for $3 million, and 1/3 of the building is commercial, the village would have to repay $1 million.
That is, unless the money is used solely for exterior repair. Trustees could leave inside work to a tenant.
Say, Alan Hastings.
"I'm working sleepless nights on this, and I'm super-excited," he said. "I really think that we found something that works for everybody, and now we just have to find out how to put it together."
"Quite frankly, it's time. It's time," Hastings said. "I feel like I'm the guy to do it. I'm ready to do it."
by Joshua Maloni
Editor's note: The Hastings family is no longer pursuing this plan. This article is included so as to spotlight some more of the backstory behind this project, as well as early efforts by the Village of Lewiston to restore the building.
News broke Sunday that the Village of Lewiston created a petition seeking support for restoration of the historic Frontier House. Throughout this week, residents visiting the mayor's office in the Red Brick Municipal Building have been encouraged to sign the document. To date, more than 500 have obliged. In doing so, they asked one question: What's going on with the Frontier House?
"What we're trying to do, basically, is to purchase the property," Mayor Terry Collesano said Tuesday.
Since May, the Village Board has met at least three times in executive session to discuss acquiring the Frontier House, which was built in 1824 and has sat vacant since 2004. Trustees have spoken with building owner Richard Hastings, attorney Maxwell Coykendall, and with Hormoz Mansouri, who is Hastings' partner on a planned adjoining condominium complex.
Collesano said the village is hoping to obtain a Transportation Enhancement Program reimbursement grant from the state Department of Transportation. The village is looking for $3 million, which would include funding to complete the purchase and to renovate the property.
"The $3 million would handle the restoration of the exterior of the building, as well as most of the interior of the building," Collesano said. "There's two other sources that we're going to go after, as well. There's the coastal zone management, which we are now in the process of doing the coastal zone management from the waterfront all the way up Center Street. That way we can include the Frontier House in it, and try for that grant. There's one other (source) that we're also going to go through, for immediate funds, through Greenway. We're going to try that one, as well."
The U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coastal management program is described on the NOAA website as working to "preserve, protect, develop and, where possible, restore and enhance the nation's coastal zone resources." Greenway funding, meanwhile, comes through the New York Power Authority relicensing agreement.
"The petition is for the (DOT) grant," Collesano said. "In order to receive the grants, it's imperative that we have signatures of support of the people."
"What we're trying to do is, we're trying to roll the purchase price into the grant," he added. "In order to do that, there's certain criteria that we have to follow for the grant. We went to Buffalo yesterday, the state of New York's Department of Transportation, hoping that we could roll that into it. We can do it, but in order to do that, we have to wait for about a year. It takes about a year for procedure. We have to do a SEQRA; we have to write a letter of intent. We still believe that we can have everything done by the deadline for the grant, which is Aug. 15. That gives us a month to work on it.
"We still need to have an open meeting, which we plan on doing on the 15th of July, for the public - we have to have public input on it."
Collesano said the village, financially, could purchase the property right now. However, "we'd have to float a bond for it. And to do that, then we're holding ourself back."
"If we have to buy it outright, then the village people are going to lose out on it," he added. "So, we're trying to do everything proper and, in order to do it proper, there's so many hoops that we've got to jump through and hurdles we've got to go over in order to do it properly. But that's what we're doing. We're going to pursue it."
The DOT grant would require the village to give back 20 percent through in-kind funds - in this case, most likely "in-kind contributions of labor or materials that are an integral component of the project (DOT website)," and would come from the village's Department of Public Works.
The grant will likely be awarded in the fall and dispersed next summer or fall.
Mansouri, who is president of the Buffalo-based E.I. Team, said the Village Board and Clerk Anne Welch "are doing a tremendous work. They have been behind the project, to revitalize the Frontier House."
"The opportunity has presented itself to own the Frontier House and promote it, and refurbish it and promote it to its glory days of the 1800s. I think that is tremendous progress for the Village of Lewiston," he added.
In 2011, Hastings, Mansouri and former Frontier House partner John Bartolomei, a Niagara Falls attorney, proposed adding a multi-story condominium development above the property's parking lot. Last year, Hastings' son, Alan, who operates The Silo Restaurant, expressed interest in converting the Frontier House into a microbrewery similar to Buffalo's Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.
On Tuesday, Mansouri said, "we have come up with an agreement in principle to go forward with the Frontier House, as well as the condominiums. So both of them are going forward."
He said it's going to cost a lot of money to refurbish and reopen the Frontier House. At the same time, "Utilization of public funds for private use is prohibited," he said. So, "to secure the necessary funding for the village, it is essential for the village to have a right to decide (what goes into the Frontier House)."
In other words, the Village of Lewiston would need a controlling interest in the property and have an idea of what it will be used for in the future.
Mansouri said, "Yes, absolutely, we are working with the village on that route. We are working diligently with the village, and we want to support the village and village trustees and the mayor (in any way) to promote that idea."
In return, Hastings and Mansouri would be granted permission to build condominiums. The most recent design showed a J-shaped complex sitting kitty-corner to the Frontier House and facing Ridge Street. It would be between three and five stories, with between 25 and 27 units. Targeted tenants would be baby boomers.
Traffic would enter via Center Street and enter and exit on Ridge Street. There could be as many as 27 covered parking spaces, and an additional 37 parking spaces surrounding the development.
"There have been some people in the village that they are opposing a massive building," Mansouri said. "We're trying to find a way to work with the village ... to ensure everybody's thoughts are incorporated into the new building, the condominiums. Under no circumstances do we want anybody to be offended by a big building, because we have that harmony built into (Lewiston), and a lot of people would like to hold on to it, and we want to accommodate them."
Mansouri said there is "strong support" in the community for such a condominium development. "We also know the village trustees and the mayor, they have a strong position in terms of (ensuring) the public's thoughts are incorporated into the new project. For that reason, we are working to finalize the type of the building it will be, and the number of the condominium (units)."
"We have to come up with a middle ground that everybody's happy," he said. "You don't want to offend anybody. Bottom line. Offending the public is not a good idea in any project."
Leandra Collesano, vice president of the Historical Association of Lewiston (and Mayor Terry Collesano's daughter), was appointed to the Frontier House Restoration Committee. In a Facebook post, she wrote, "If you know me, you know about my passion for Lewiston and (its) rich heritage. ... Our first task is to see if there is community support in restoring the Frontier House at 460 Center Street in the Village. Once that support is confirmed through paper and online petitions, we'll have the ammunition we need to apply for grants to help with the restoration project.
"Built in 1824, The (Frontier) House is one of the oldest structures in the Town of Lewiston. It's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. A slew of famous people have visited the Frontier House, including President McKinley on the day he was shot, The Marquis de Lafayette, King Edward VII, New York Governor Dewitt Clinton, Charles Dickens, Jenny Lind, Washington Irving and Daniel Webster. The building has been vacant and in disrepair for almost 10 years."
The online and paper petitions read, "We the undersigned support the Village of Lewiston in the restoration of the Historic Frontier House located at 460 Center Street, Lewiston NY. The restoration of this historic building will help preserve our history and heritage of our region. This great asset of The Niagara Frontier has served the world well, but it now needs help. Treasured properties should be passed on in good condition to future generations. The Frontier House deserves assistance."
Leandra wrote about the Frontier House committee's unsuccessful effort last year to have the building included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "11 Most Endangered Historic Sites" list. She said the committee "is now gathering petition signatures to show there is community support to restore the Frontier House."
Those wishing to sign the petition can do so in the mayor's office or by visiting http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/frontier-house/.
Hastings declined comment Tuesday, only saying he has not made up his mind as to what he will do with the Frontier House. His building has been closed since McDonald's opted out in December 2004.