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Jet boat president seeks to relocate, refurbish former Village Inn

by jmaloni
Tue, Dec 13th 2011 07:05 am

by Joshua Maloni

The historic Village Inn building in Lewiston is set to move.

John Kinney, president of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, spoke Monday to the Village of Lewiston Planning Board about his intention to move the structure at 65 Center St., south to a new base. Once relocated and refurbished, the building will serve as a hospitality hub for tour bus operators and those not participating in the water ride.

"We know that we've got a major challenge here," Kinney said. Planning Board Chairman David Giusiana said the building is "beyond deteriorated." Members of his board and village trustees visited the site last week.

A 10-foot base would be created south of the current property (toward the Moose Lodge). The building (sans add-ons) would be lifted and placed on the new pad in much the same way the Welcome Center was moved from Center Street into Academy Park. The former base would be converted into a 16-space parking lot.

Kinney called this the "best-case scenario" for the building, also known as the "Bucket of Blood."

"There's no sense in letting the property sit in a dilapidated state," Kinney said following the meeting.

In a worst-case scenario, one in which the building can't be moved or collapses during the move, Kinney said his company would rebuild it to a similar character.

The Planning Board approved Kinney's development plan as well as a historic preservation certificate. Giusiana said the building's smaller size and larger number of parking spaces satisfies all code requirements. Members Loretta Frankovitch and Jamie Symmonds expressed some concern that the new building setup has no entrance facing Center Street (and the new parking lot), but ultimately OK'd the proposal. The plan will now go to the Village Board for final approval.

If approved, Kinney hopes to have phase one (new base, moved house) complete by mid-June 2012. Further renovations would follow. Kinney does not yet have an overall project cost.

Initially, Kinney plans to install first floor bathrooms for his customers. These would serve in lieu of the portable restroom trailer he's used the past two summers. He's also considering the addition of an Internet café and light refreshments or vending machines within the property. There would be no bar or restaurant, per se, he said.

The property is almost 16 feet off the adjacent property line - the Moose Lodge. Kinney said he expects to maintain a "neighborly" relationship with that organization.

The Historic Association of Lewiston website states 65 Center St., is "known as the Trafford Mansion. Built in 1840 by James Trafford, Maryann Cornell Trafford and her father, Nelson Cornell. ... The Trafford Mansion is one of Lewiston's landmarks and is an excellent example of Greek Revival construction. In addition to being a residence at various times, the mansion has been the St. Elmo Hotel, a tavern, The Wilson Inn and a restaurant."

Kinney and WJBT received permission from the Village Board last year to build a new headquarters north of Water Street Landing. He purchased this new building in January when that project became the subject of a lawsuit, which is ongoing.

"We do intend to press on with the approved development," Kinney said.

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