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."