By Joshua Maloni
Center Street passersby noticed the historic Frontier House parking lot is once again closed to the public. Some were quick to speculate property owner Richard Hastings was acting out of spite or to hinder local businesses. In fact, "The building is currently up for sale, so it was a logical safeguard," said Hastings' business consultant, Stacey Sheehan.
"Hastings made the decision to close the lot to public parking for a combination of reasons, both personal and practical," she said. "The busy summer season means a lot of traffic to that lot, cleaning up broken glass, entertaining foot traffic, litter, vandalism, mischief."
In other words, at 75, Hastings is eager to spend more time with his family and less time doing the work of a man half his age.
Sheehan said there are no plans to reopen the parking lot, as Hastings intends to sell the building and grounds. The property remains listed with Bruce Andrews of Great Lake Real Estate.
She acknowledged Hastings' decision would not be well-liked, but said, "Mr. Hastings has eased the village parking problem for a long time, and it seems it's now become an expectation.
"I understand there has been feedback. I have been informed that some of the surrounding businesses are displeased about losing 'their customer parking.' I knew closing the lot would not be a popular idea but, as I reminded Mr. Hastings recently, that's OK. ... It has never been 'their customer parking.' It's perfectly OK for him to retire, and scale back his contributions as he sees fit. He's earned it. He contributed 40 or more parking spaces to the street in Niagara County that probably needs it the most, for years, and never asked anything in return for it. ...
"But that parking lot belongs to him. He has allowed the public and local businesses and groups to use the lot, and the grounds for parking and festivals and events on an ongoing basis, which was extremely generous of him. I am sure if I were to knock on doors and ask other property or business owners if they would allow the public to park on their property free of charge for several years they would be less accommodating.
"I do believe that Center Street needs more parking, but it is not right to look to Mr. Hastings to personally solve that dilemma. Because of him, there is no doubt many more people explored, enjoyed, dined and shopped Center Street to the benefit of local businesses and the Village of Lewiston in general. I am thankful he was willing and able to be of such help in previous years."
In 2015, former Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey tried to work out an arrangement wherein the municipality would purchase the property from Hastings. When the property was assessed at $750,000 - $250,000 to $450,000 less than expected - that deal fell apart.
"The Frontier House (including the parking lot) is currently for sale," Sheehan said. "I would encourage any person, or group, who requires additional parking for their usage to reach out with a reasonable offer to purchase. As I have said many times, it is a very valuable and unique property - both historically and logistically."