by Joshua Maloni
Developer Richard Hastings, attorney John Bartolomei and E.I. Team President Hormoz Mansouri, the principal owners of the famous Frontier House, are expected to present a new development plan to the Village of Lewiston Planning Board on Monday, July 11. They seek to build around the Center Street property.
Their plan was originally slated for review on June 13, but Bartolomei said more time is required to assess boundary and subdivision maps and put together drawings and agreements.
"We are very close to a real definition to the project," he said Thursday.
"It looks like a well-defined, comprehensive project," Bartolomei added.
Village officials have recently met with the building's owners, and said they expect to receive a plan that is similar to the one they received in the first quarter of 2008. Bartolomei declined to offer specifics, but confirmed that was the case.
A new wrinkle is the possible deeding over of the historic building to the village.
"We are proposing that," Bartolomei said.
In that scenario, the Frontier House property would likely be subdivided. The village would receive the building, which could be eligible to receive federal grant money for repairs, and the developers would be free to construct a condominium complex on the surrounding grounds.
"I think that would be a great move forward for the village," Mayor Terry Collesano said of the opportunity to take over the Frontier House. "Any way that we can preserve it for future generations, I'm all for."
In late 2007 and early 2008, Hastings and E.I. Team architect Timothy E. Kupinski presented a proposal to build 27 condominium units in an L-shape surrounding the Frontier House. As reported then, the plan called for the west side of the Frontier House to be connected via a bridge to a new, 31-foot, brick and stone building. That four-story structure wraps to Ridge Street (north to east), where it connects to the 50-foot complex. On the Center Street side's ground floor, there would be retail and/or dining options.
In March 2008, the village's Zoning Board of Appeals granted the project four variances, which paved the way for the Planning Board and Village Board to approve the proposal.
However, progress was delayed when fellow Lewiston developer Herbert Richardson and PSR Press Limited filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the village and Hastings in the summer of 2008. The complainants challenged the validity of the variances and alleged the project was improperly rushed through the environmental review process.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. dismissed the case in October 2009, but the building hasn't been touched since then -- save some repairs by Hastings, and the recent removal of a walk-in cooler. Lewiston leaders attempted to persuade Niagara County Community College to use the Frontier House for its culinary institute, but to no avail.
The new proposal is expected to include siding and aesthetic changes to the condo complex, which would more closely resemble the Frontier House.
"We really want it to be right," Bartolomei said. He noted his team has, for all intents and purposes, "saved (the building) from the wrecking ball." Their plan, he said, is "turning it into the crown jewel" of the village.
While nothing has been approved since 2008, the E.I. Team website includes this of the project:
"E.I. Team assisted in coordinating the restoration of the Historic Frontier House in Lewiston, New York with the intent of it becoming a Board & Breakfast, similar to its original use. 460 Center Street is the location of the Historic Frontier House. The intent of the project is to develop the adjacent lands: 458 Center Street and 445 Ridge Street. Presently, these parcels are a bituminous parking lot once utilized by a fast food restaurant that was housed in the Frontier House. 458 Center Street, adjacent to the Frontier House, will be identified as 2,400 square feet of retail/commercial space while 445 Ridge Street will be a residential component consisting of 27 housing units. The final arrangement will be of retail fronting Center Street on the ground floor with two levels of balconied residential units above. An "L" shape building configuration will utilized with parking on the ground level and residential apartments on the first, second and penthouse floors above.
"The plot of land fronts 198.0 feet on both Center and Ridge Streets and has a depth of 198.0 feet, creating a total site of 39,204 square feet or 0.9 acre. The Frontier House has a foot print of 3,935 square feet while the new construction will have a foot print of 14,764 square feet, additional paving and sidewalks will consist of 21,515 square feet. The remaining lands will be developed for green space. The 8,834 Square feet of green space is an increase of 4.4% over the present use.
"The facade treatments will reference the vernacular materials used in the Village of Lewiston such as stone, decorative wood trim and clapboard as well as board and batten. The color selections will lend themselves to the historical community in which the construction will be set."
In 2008, the project cost was around $13 million. With three more years of inactivity, and numerous repairs required (so says village officials), that number is expected to be considerably higher. Bartolomei said the new cost is yet to be determined. So too, he said, is a timetable for the project.
The Frontier House has been closed since former tenant McDonald's pulled out in late 2004. When Collesano campaigned for mayor in 2010, Frontier House restoration was one of his platforms. After Collesano was elected, he met with Bartolomei to discuss the building's future.
"I told him we need to get moving on this. He agreed," Collesano said.
The Planning Board meets Monday and again July 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Red Brick Municipal Building (North Fourth and Ridge streets).