by Joshua Maloni
As the countdown to the new year begins, the Sentinel takes a look back at 10 Village of Lewiston topics covered in 2011, all of which will impact residents in 2012.
This list is in alphabetical order, and each entry offers a small summary, the argument in question and, where applicable, a potential outcome.
1. Academy Park - The issue: How to better utilize the village's most prominent green space. The argument: Mayor Terry Collesano and trustees seek to get more out of Academy Park. To that end, they worked with Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter in adding an open-air ice rink and warming tent/refreshment area in between the bleachers and DiMino bandshell (December).
The Village Board officially opened the Lewiston Welcome Center within the park, which serves as a first stop for tourists and guests (May).
Trustees have beefed up the park's New Year's Eve ball-drop and related activities, and expect a larger turnout than in 2010.
Potential outcome: A reconfigured parking setup, allowing more people access to Academy Park and neighboring businesses.
2. Artpark - The issue: Crowd control. The argument: What audience size is too large? The venue drew considerable ire following consecutive "Tuesday in the Park" concerts with 30,000 in attendance (July/August).
Potential outcome: Following a series of meetings between Artpark & Co. and the Village of Lewiston, and one jam-packed "town hall" meeting, a consensus was reached: the ideal crowd size is about 12,000. To that end, Artpark & Co. is reconfiguring the outdoor amphitheater to better accommodate guests, while building in crowd control measures (fencing, for example). Moreover, venue management is analyzing the pros and cons of charging patrons a nominal fee for what has been a free concert series.
The new amphitheater will open in the summer of 2012. Artpark & Co. will unveil the concert lineup in May. (Sentinel suggestions: Roxette, Peter Cetera, Dream Theater, Tears For Fears, Styx, Hall and Oates, the Guess Who, The Machine, The Pretenders, Heart, Amy Grant and/or Vince Gill, Kelly Clarkson).
3. Barton Hill Hotel & Spa - The issue: The four-story Center Street inn bounced back from a March fire, but remains the subject of lawsuits from creditors. The question: Will the hotel overcome its financial setbacks or will the owners, Ed and Diane Finkbeiner, lose the property to foreclosure or sale?
Potential outcome: The Finkbeiners have staunchly defended their business, repeatedly stated they're in the best position to run the hotel, and teased of potential partners (an international hotel chain, perhaps?). As long as they can keep control - and varying court responses and newspaper reports have made it hard to predict - the couple will remain attached to the property.
4. Business activity - The issue: Several stores changed hands in 2011. Among the notable moves: Tops Xpress opened (to the delight of "bonus card" members); Family Video took over Blockbuster's old space, Hops-N-Vines reopened 490 Center St., the Fiores put their own spin on the Village Bake Shoppe, Allstate moved across the street (and with a new agent), Lewiston Music rock-n-rolled to Fourth Street, Village Vineyard turned into Savory Sips, Warren's revamped the Village Hardware store, Trusello's debuted and the Steelhead was sold. Also, Frontier Lanes reopened in September after April's windstorm caused severe damage.
In 2012: Hibbard's Custard will reopen with a new, indoor eating area - that we know for certain. Potential outcomes: The Steelhead is poised to become a steakhouse; the Hollow Mercantile will likely be sold; Professor Herbert Richardson may enclose his complex at Fourth and Center streets.
5. Festival fees/structure - The issue: What is the process of closing Center Street relative to what it could/should be? The argument: Should festival organizers be charged to host events? How should the public learn of Center Street's closing?
Outcome: In September, Collesano put together an ad hoc committee to assess the latter, while he and his fellow board members decided in April not to invoke the former. So, while festival organizers won't be charged a setup/take-down fee, they will be asked to more effectively communicate what portions of Center Street will be closed, and the potential impact to neighboring businesses.
6. Frontier House - The issue: Preserving Lewiston's "crown jewel," while getting some use out of the historic building. The argument: Should it be turned into rent-to-own condos or apartments?
Potential outcome: Since 2004, the Village of Lewiston has gone back and forth with building owner Richard Hastings (and now his partners, attorney John Bartolomei and E.I. Team President Hormoz Mansouri) about refurbishing and reopening the Frontier House. During the summer, it appeared as if a deal was in place, wherein the owners would fix the building up and add a secondary living quarters structure (likely for boomers and seniors). Currently, both sides are analyzing costs and the benefits of deeding the building back to the village. It's likely a deal will be reached in 2012, if for no other reason than all parties have said the Frontier House cannot continue in its current state indefinitely.
7. Recreation center - The issue: Is the Village of Lewiston - the Red Brick Municipal Building's adjacent park, in particular - the best place for a new, $2 million recreation center? The argument: Earlier this month, trustees voted to accept WTS President and CEO Gary Hall's gift, but haven't decided where to put the indoor tennis, soccer and game center. Residents north of the Red Brick are staunch in their disapproval of placing the center in Marilyn Toohey Park.
Potential outcome: Trustees will hold a public forum on the rec. center at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9, at the Red Brick. A second possible location in the village is the upper plateau by Artpark.
8. Robert Moses Parkway - The issue: Should the Robert Moses Parkway continue in its current state, return to four lanes, or be pared down (or eliminated) to reroute traffic in and around Niagara Falls. The argument: The City of Niagara Falls and local environmental groups favor removing the roadway, while elected leaders in the River Region see it as a necessary access point for tourists and those looking to take advantage of locations such as Artpark and Old Fort Niagara.
Potential outcome: The project is still in the scoping process. While new alternatives should be presented shortly, the future of the RMP is still at least two years away.
9. Village Board activity -Trustees made a more concerted effort to tackle big-ticket topics (items on this list, for example). Plans were put in place for Artpark crowd control and festival parking. The board raised property taxes (from $6.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $7.12), as well as water and sewer rates, while continuing to reduce inflow and infiltration problems (thanks, in part, to better grease trap monitoring).
10. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours - The issue: A pair of lawsuits held up a new headquarters. The argument: Was the village just in its dealings (including land deeding and use of the waterfront) with the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours company? Developer Jerry Williams and Lewiston Management Group brought suit claiming the village's dealings with WJBT were illegal and unethical. This action delayed WJBT's plan to build a new headquarters north of Water Street Landing.
Potential outcome: Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. dismissed the first lawsuit in State Supreme Court. The second lawsuit may be dismissed; all sides are awaiting Kloch's written decision. If the case is dismissed, Williams may appeal the judge's verdict.
In the meantime, WJBT will utilize a second property: the former Village Inn. This building will be moved onto a new base, offer bathrooms to bus tour members and amenities for bus drivers.