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Lewiston Village Board approves plans for controversial $12.5 million shopping plaza

LEWISTON — Ellicott Development’s plans for a $12.5 million shopping plaza and apartment complex at 790 Center St. won final approval from the Lewiston Village Board following a public hearing Monday.

The approval came after nearly three years of discussion and fierce opposition from some residents. But Monday’s public hearing drew only 10 to 12 residents and three of the five people who spoke expressed support for the plaza.

Former Mayor Richard F. Soluri sent a letter voicing his support, telling trustees to “never stop moving forward.”

He also praised developer Ellicott Development for turning the iconic United Office Building in Niagara Falls into the “magnificent” Giacomo Hotel.

Village Historian Pamela Hauth wrote a letter asking the board to reject the plan. She said whatever was built there should be in keeping with the historic character of the village and said the project was granted too many code variances to move forward.

The board voted 4 to 1, with the lone dissenting vote from Trustee Daniel R. Gibson.

The planned project, on a 4.1-acre lot bordered by Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets, includes three unique two-story building. One building will include a fast food restaurant with a drive thru, an upper patio and two other retail spaces on the first floor, as well as 6,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor. Building two will have retail space on the first floor and restaurant space on the second floor. Building three, the largest at 14,694 square feet, will have a first floor with a retail pharmacy and possibly a second drive-thru. The second floor will have 13 two bedroom apartments.

Developer William Paladino, CEO of Ellicott Development, has had a tough time winning approval from the village. He’s been discussing the project, which has been dubbed “Paladino Plaza,” with the village zoning and planning boards since 2013.

After the meeting he said developing the steeply sloped lot was “very challenging.”

“We’ve made a lot of concessions on this project and have been very attentive to the concerns of the residents,” said Paladino.

Planning Board Chairman Norman Machelor called it a “long two years” working with Paladino on the project. He said the developer included many improvements to the plan to “produce a product that helps our village.”

“It’s my opinion that the vast majority of you are going to like what will be developed on Eighth and Center streets,” said Machelor.

Paladino told The Buffalo News on Monday that the project has a lot of perceived negatives, but he said the density of the project is a lot less than people imagine. Unlike other properties along Center Street, he said the buildings of his plaza will only occupy about 20 percent of the entire 4.1 acres, leaving a lot room for much-needed parking.

Ellicott Development recently submitted a traffic study that concluded there would be no adverse impact on traffic in the area. The plans call for two-way driveways on North Eighth and Onondaga streets and an enter-only driveway on Center streets.

“We don’t have any tenants at this time, but we are optimistic that once we begin marketing this we will generate some interest from retailers,” said Paladino.

Collesano has noted that the site used to be railroad lines, a service station and Department of Public Works garage that left behind disposed diesel fuel. There was also a junkyard and a dry cleaner in that area and many years ago a peach orchard, which used the now-banned spray DDT. All of this will be cleaned up as part of the development.

Trustee Bruce Sutherland agreed saying that the contaminated site needs to be cleaned up. “We have a sorry looking corner that needs improvement and with the right looking buildings they will blend in and enrich the village,” he said.

Paladino said he would like to begin clearing and cleaning up the site within the next 60 days and begin construction once the snow clears in the spring.

“The site has sat vacant for 30 years or longer. We are cleaning up an otherwise contaminated site. We are cleaning up something that is unsightly and will be putting something that is really nice there,” said Paladino.

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