by Terry Duffy
The latest plan for newly acquired Joseph Davis State Park was the main newsmaker at Monday's Lewiston Town Board meeting.
Representatives of the DiMarco Group and Stieglitz Snyder Architecture PC were on hand to provide a presentation to the Town Board and residents on a concept for a 250-room lodge and conference center. Envisioned for an area in the southwest corner of the park adjacent to Lower River Road, now undeveloped, the project is estimated to be in the $1 million range, according to representatives. It was referred to by Paul M. Colucci, vice president of the Rochester-area DiMarco Group as "the perfect complement" to others eyed for Joe Davis and existing attractions in the area. Colucci spoke of the "two fantastic opportunities" at the park - a Nature Center proposal by the Audubon Society and a fish hatchery plan presented in recent weeks by Bill Hilts Jr., Niagara County sports fishing coordinator, as spurring his interest in becoming involved and contacting the town.
Architectural Consultant Robert Shepard of Stieglitz Snyder, who was involved with the DiMarco Group in the recent Avant/Embassy Suites project in downtown Buffalo, presented plans for the complex, which would involve 48 suites spread out over three floors, with 16 on each floor. Capacity would be 250, with rooms consisting of singles and doubles ranging in size from 300 to 600 square feet.
The lodge would be fronted by a banquet facility to accommodate 100; rooms on the river side of the complex would feature terraces; a man-made stream would be integrated into the plan, and the rear of the complex was envisioned to include a patio area and fireplace overlooking the river, with lawn area and the stream descending down to the river's edge.
"We see this as a very exciting project," said Colucci.
Supervisor Steve Reiter and the town councilmen agreed.
"This looks absolutely spectacular," commented Town Councilman Ernie Palmer, adding he's thrilled that Joe Davis Park is finally starting to get some action.
"We're looking forward to this," said Reiter.
Councilman Ron Winkley suggested the lodge plan could serve as an opportunity for a partnership utilizing the Niagara University Tourism and Hospitality Department to help operate it. Colucci agreed, saying that could be a consideration with prospective hotel operators, none of whom were named.
Reiter, answering a question afterward from resident Paulette Glasgow regarding requests for proposals on the lodge project, said that overall feasibility and marketing studies for the Joe Davis proposals would come en route. He said the town would be considering formation of a development corporation (membership unnamed) who would be working with the town on the various park proposals as they develop further. All projects currently remain in their conceptual stage with funding mechanisms only discussed and no actual proposals made as of yet to the Niagara River Greenway Commission or other state government agencies.
Asked by Glasgow about a Joe Davis Master Plan, Reiter responded that the discussions thus far on the three projects are already indirectly serving in concept as a master plan would. "We're putting all this together and we're being active on this," said Reiter. "We're working on this ... we (still) have to submit all the plans to the state."
Other news from the session:
•In a related matter the board approved proposed rules, 11 total, covering rentals of approximately four shelters at Joe Davis Park. The town is also refurbishing picnic tables from the long neglected state park for the upcoming season.
•Palmer updated the board on an eight-field soccer complex and related facilities project on the Niagara-Wheatfield School District's campus on Saunders Settlement Road, en route to routine board approval on a negative declaration and endorsement of earlier Planning Board approval.