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Pictured is the area Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney sought to use for a new waterfront docking system.
Pictured is the area Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney sought to use for a new waterfront docking system.

You asked: Updates on Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours proposal, WellNow site, Artpark parking lot & Ellicott Development plaza

by jmaloni
Fri, Oct 27th 2023 11:00 am

By Joshua Maloni

GM/Managing Editor

In response to community questions regarding large-scale projects in the Village of Lewiston, the Niagara County Tribune/Sentinel obtained answers and updates on the following:

•What’s happening with the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours docking system proposal?

In August, the Village of Lewiston resumed discussions with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney regarding a new docking system proposal for the south waterfront seawall. He previously presented a plan to build new docks in an area not presently used by boaters, and offered to allow transient docking within his existing platforms.

Trustees made no decision, instead noting their desire to revisit the village’s 40-year lease agreement with WJBT.

A public hearing was set for early September, but that meeting was canceled.

On Wednesday, Kinney stated, “At this time, WJBT intends to utilize our new docks in the existing docking configuration. The management team at WJBT feels strongly that the excellent work done to make a ‘highwater-proof’ seawall is an initiative which will pay great dividends when the next highwater event occurs on the Niagara River.

“At present, the normal lower water levels of the fall boating season have increased the distance from the top of the seawall to the river water level, to a height in excess of 7.5 feet. This makes the seawall incapable of docking. In the spring, the height of the seawall from water level was 6 feet. This distance is still far too much for virtually every boat in the lower Niagara River. Therefore, the majority of the Lewiston seawall, which has been in place for four boating seasons, will continue to not be utilized.

“Additionally, WJBT’s offer to provide proper transient docking, at no cost to the village, will not be available. WJBT offered to allow the existing WJBT docking facility to remain in place for transient pleasure craft. The new jet boat docks will stay ‘status quo.’

“The management team at WJBT remains willing to discuss the future betterment of the Lewiston waterfront if/when the Village Board would like to talk.”

Work is underway inside the future home of WellNow Urgent Care on Center Street in Lewiston.


•What’s happening with WellNow?

Though its new building has yet to open at 860 Center St., WellNow Urgent Care has reaffirmed its intent to service Lewiston.

“We are targeting a Q1 or Q2 (2024) opening and are committed to serving the community,” Public Relations Manager Annie Keller said Tuesday. She noted “challenges with insurance companies like Excellus … in many cases kept us from moving forward as quickly as we would like in opening additional urgent care centers for communities that badly need them, like Lewiston.”

WellNow purchased its village property in early 2022 and, by the time of the Lewiston Christmas Walk, passersby were commenting on the large structure being built in between Lewiston Family Dental and the APlus mart/Sunoco station.

Progress was delayed this year as the company had to shore up the bank overlooking Onondaga Street.

In August, Mayor Anne Welch explained, “The back of the property eroded and needed a retaining wall. That cost a lot of money; and they had to put drainage back there, because of the people behind it. … That's why it slowed down any construction inside.”

Village of Lewiston Engineer Mike Marino added, “That back slope that they have, they noticed that there was some movement where the parking lot ended in the back – in the slope, kind of where they were working – that, if it was left unaddressed, that it likely would have continued to deteriorate and slide down. So, they had stepped up, actually – which is a great thing, I think – and decided to put a bigger retaining wall up there, that has soldier piles and wooden lag boards in there.”

The parking lot is finished and striped. Electrical workers were seen at the WellNow site this week.

A look into the Ellicott Development Company plaza.


•What’s happening with the new plaza on Center Street?

Ellicott Development Company is striving to find occupants for the units inside its plaza at Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets.

On Tuesday, Director of Development Thomas M. Fox said, “We continue to work towards filling the remaining vacant commercial spaces in the two buildings closest to Center Street. For the vacant first floor of the rear building, we are working on plans to add additional residential units.”

In late 2012, Ellicott Development purchased 756, 784-790 Center St., and adjacent vacant land on Onondaga Street. The company’s plaza project went through several rounds of revisions at municipal meetings before it was approved. Ground broke at the site in June 2018.

The building closest to North Eighth Street welcomed its first tenant, Quest Diagnostics, in early 2020, while the neighboring building opened in December 2020 with the arrival of Tim Hortons. The top level of the third and largest building, on the north side bordering Onondaga Street, opened next, with residential units.

In a 2021 interview, Ellicott Development CEO Bill Paladino said COVID-19 “continuous start and stops has caused us to lose probably three or four different tenancies.”


The main parking lot at Artpark State Park is getting revamped.


•What’s happening with the main Artpark parking lot?

Teams of workers are renovating the main Artpark State Park lot.

In April 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $5.47 million in grants from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to “support improvements to trails in three state parks in Western New York.” The grants would leverage a $22.8 million total investment and “make key upgrades to trails” in Artpark State Park, while also extending Allegany State Park's Quaker Area trail in Cattaraugus County, and improve the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park in Allegany County.

For the Artpark State Park “Connector Trails,” the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is teaming with State Parks and NYPA to fund a $9 million “comprehensive trail project.” Hochul’s team said, “When complete, the park will be better connected to the Village of Lewiston and the existing trails of the lower Niagara River Region.”

Each funding entity committed to provide $3 million to “establish a series of formal trails connecting the Shoreline Trail to the lower Niagara River trail system, which connects from the Village of Lewiston north to Fort Niagara and westward.”

At that time, Hochul’s team further defined the elements of the Artpark project:

√ “Installing gateways at the Portage and South Fourth Street entrances to the park to create a more appropriate sense of arrival and assist with circulation;

√ “Improving the signature ‘Redbrick Path’ running through the park;

√ “Creating a sloped switchback trail that connects the Shoreline Trail to the upper Artpark parking area. This includes a direct scramble that will create an adventurous climb to the overlook on the escarpment;

√ “Transforming the existing South Fourth Street parking lot into a sustainable parking area and multipurpose space;

√ “Improving the Artpark gorge trail system, including a pedestrian bridge ravine crossing.”

It’s expected the Artpark projects will tie in with New York’s Empire State Trail.

State Parks noted the projects were bid out in two parts: the switchback/overlook, and the South Fourth Street entrance/parking lot.

Work began on the first section in August, will continue through next summer, and is expected to finish by December 2024. A portion of Lot D may be impacted during the Artpark & Company season.

The second section will wrap up in April, prior to summer programming.


See also >> Town of Lewiston to support Academy Park pavilion project

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