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By Joshua Maloni
Plans were presented to the Village of Lewiston’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning boards on Monday to renovate the Lewiston Event Center and convert it into a self-storage facility.
Developer Vick Singh Ghotra said he intends to make “about 300 units” available inside the building at 845 Cayuga St. He has entered into acquisition talks with current property owners Emery Simon and Harold Hibbard.
“I’ve had discussions with Life Storage. Life Storage would want to be here. Whether I decide to go with them, I’m going to see how the village feels about it,” Ghotra said.
Regardless of the name on the building, Ghotra said, “It's going to be fully climate-controlled. State-of-the-art. Also known as an A-class facility, which means it’s going to be fully secured with lighting, with security cameras, alarm systems. And it’s going to be high-end technology. I’m going to be using a fob or codes for the security.
“Life Storage is a local, Buffalo company. They’re taking a lot of pride in the project that I have found. They really want to be here. They’re also probably the best customer service-oriented operator. That’s why they’re trying to persuade me to do so – and I’m for it, as well; but I want to make sure that the town is for it, as well. If the town feels like it should locally operated, I will do that. If they’re OK with Life Storage, I will do that.”
Ghotra said Life Storage has a well-established model for storage facilities.
“They have it down to a science,” he said, in regard to operation, maintenance and customer fee schedule.
“It’s better to have a professional manage it,” he said. “We’re also going to have a part-time custodian that’s going to keep it clean. We’re going add trees – like the mayor wants – throughout the facility, outside the facility, to make it nicer.”
He added, “I’m just going to try to pump a lot of life into the building, and try to make it something that the village is proud of.”
Ghotra is a multi-family real estate investor from the Buffalo area.
He was joined at the meeting by Mark Dean, a registered architect and principal owner of Dean Architects in Depew.
Dean explained the building would be painted and resided, and the lot resurfaced “to dramatically improve what it is right now.”
Exterior lighting would be shielded. The main loading doors and storage unit access will be on the front of the building.
Dean reemphasized, “Sitewise, we’re not extending the building at all.”
Ghotra said the facility would have set usage times – it will not be open 24 hours.
Under a proposed plan for the property at 845 Cayuga St., this outdoor lot would be at least partially enclosed to house additional storage units.
The Historic Preservation Commission expressed concern about a potential color scheme – bright-colored banding, in particular – and wondered if the building’s change in use and an application to enclose the open-air lot would require more parking spaces.
They tabled a request for architectural approval, asking that the proposal first go before the Planning Commission and potentially the Zoning Board of Appeals to ensure its viability.
Board member Peter Coppins said, “I think coming here was great; you showed us what you want to do – what your intentions are. I don’t think we’re prepared to make any kind of decision at all, at this point. … We just do not have enough information. … I need more information from my village officials to tell me that this is something that can be done legally, under our village code. Then come back.”
Chairwoman Loretta Frankovitch said the proposal for a self-storage site “just doesn’t seem logical. … It just doesn’t really fit the character of the village.”
Board member Susan Hofert referenced another Life Storage site and said, “Taking that property and putting it in the village wouldn’t blend.”
Colleague David Giusiana said, “Portage and Cayuga is not Military Road in Niagara Falls, or Transit Road and Sheridan. You’re not competing, visually, with anyone. At this point, a more understated color palette of any form would be preferred.”
Ghotra and Dean agreed to modify what was shown in the first rendering and redesign the property to better reflect the village’s historic aesthetic.
“I think we can make some adjustments to what we have, based on today’s conversations,” Dean said.
The Planning Board also requested additional information, but did grant Ghotra and Dean first submission approval.
Board member Tasia Fitzpatrick asked for additional landscaping to “soften” the “stark” pavement areas.
Chairman Norm Machelor said, “You make that building look like it’s sitting in the middle of a bunch of trees, we’re going to be a lot happier than we are today.”
As conversations continue with the village, and with the venue owners, Simon said he expects the LEC will remain open for the rest of 2022 and even into the early part of 2023.
The event center will commence its fall season on Saturday.
Neither Simon nor Hibbard attended the meeting. Prior to the session, Simon told NFP, “We're contractually not allowed to discuss it. All I can say, factually, is that a potential purchaser put a deposit down on it. And they need to do their due diligence, and in that due diligence, they need to go through the village and get approval for usage before anything will become more serious.”
Life Storage recently won Newsweek’s 2023 America’s Best Customer Service Award in the self-storage category.
Per its website, Life Storage “is a fully integrated, self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust (REIT) that acquires and manages self-storage properties throughout the United States. Headquartered in Buffalo, New York, the company employs over 2,000 people and operates approximately 1,125 self-storage facilities encompassing over 67 million square feet in 36 states.”
Two of those self-storage facilities are less than 15 minutes away from the proposed Lewiston location, at 2590 Military Road, and 1755 Fashion Outlets Blvd.
Still, Ghotra and Dean said a market study determined there is a need for climate-controlled storage in Lewiston.
845 Cayuga St., formerly Frontier Lanes, was renamed the Lewiston Event Center when Simon and Hibbard purchased the nearly three-acre site in 2012. Their original intent was to renovate the facility and offer more activities than just bowling. Over the next decade, they replaced the roofing and floors, put in new carpeting, upgraded the lanes, added virtual golf, and fully refurbished and expanded the 710 Sports Bar.
LEC has become a place to watch sports, as it boasts more than a half-dozen 65-inch or larger TVs; and a popular site for fundraisers, as it can accommodate live music, eating and drinking, raffles and bowling.
The Gwin family opened and operated Frontier Lanes from 1958 until 2012.