Just how Lancaster’s West Main Street will be redeveloped remains unknown, but village officials seem bent on slowing plans for the long-awaited project – but vowed that it will not be killed.
“We do not want to pull the plug on the project,” Trustee William C. Schroeder said. “I believe it’s the board’s intention to slow it down. We don’t want to make any mistakes, or a $2 million to $3 million mistake. We want to get that property back onto the tax rolls and serve the community with retail.”
Three new developments in the debate emerged Monday when the Village Board met in a work session on the $2 million project after recent concerns surfaced about whether West Main Street should be extended and what kind of development would best serve the street to revitalize the village’s downtown business district.
“We want this project done right,” Mayor Paul Maute said.
The latest news on West Main Street is that Erie County has given preliminary indication that the village may not lose out on $323,000 in federal grant money if the street is not extended this year and is delayed until 2015 – a factor that village officials found encouraging.
In addition, Village Attorney Arthur Herdzik said the village could pay off the Community Development Corp.’s outstanding $559,000 mortgage on the five-acre site including what remains of the Lancaster Village Partnership Complex at the end of West Main, but only if it is done at fair market value. The land was independently appraised at $1.1 million.
Meanwhile, Maute said a traffic study of West Main – which many feel is necessary – will be done and paid for by the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency after Town Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli offered to help.
“A traffic study is imperative. Parking is at a premium in Lancaster,” Schroeder said. “Developers are going to want this information.”
Village officials did not embrace the idea of paying off the development corporation’s mortgage. “We don’t want to get involved in real estate,” Maute said.
Additionally, there is an estimated $300,000 in cumulative loans from the Lancaster and Erie County industrial development agencies to the corporation on top of the outstanding mortgage, which some said could perhaps be “forgiven” if the village were to pay off the mortgage.
“We are in a quandary because a lot of high money is at stake here,” Schroeder said. “We don’t have any developers ready to go. At this point, we don’t know if ‘Build it and they will come’ is the way to go.”
Schroeder said he can’t buy into that philosophy. “I like to gamble, but not like that,” he said. “We have to market the area. Lancaster has an awful lot to offer.”
Meanwhile, letters of interest were to have been sent Monday to prospective developers in the Buffalo area, and extending to Rochester and Erie, Pa., for ideas for how best to revitalize West Main Street. The original vision was for it to reflect a mix of retail, offices and loft-style apartments.