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Former bank building to become adult ed center in Lockport

LOCKPORT – A 99-year-old former bank building in the heart of downtown Lockport will become an adult education center by this fall.

The Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services intends to invest about $500,000 in the building at 50 Main St., BOCES Superintendent Clark Godshall said.

"We're going to make a major investment in renovating the building, which has been vacant since 2012, and then we're going to centralize our adult education program," Godshall said.

BOCES serves about 4,000 people adults each year in job training and other educational programs, making it the third-largest adult ed program in the state, Godshall said.

The Niagara County Legislature voted this week to transfer ownership of the building from the county to the City of Lockport, which in turn will transfer it to BOCES.

City officials were glad that a major building in the business district will no longer be vacant.

"Having that in use again contributes to the vibrancy of downtown," said Brian M. Smith, Lockport planning and development director. "That's what sustains our retail and food businesses."

The building at Main and Pine streets was built in 1918 as the Niagara County National Bank, and for many years it was operated as a branch of Marine Midland Bank, which merged with Niagara County National.

Its most recent tenant was Niagara County Community College, whose corporate training center operated in the building until the lease expired in 2012. The center then moved back to NCCC's Sanborn campus.

Smith said the BOCES plan offers "training for people who might not otherwise be able to access it because of a lack of transportation."

Godshall said he liked the location because it's near a bus route. Metro Buses stop a block away.

"We believe having BOCES on Main Street will be a positive step for Lockport," Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said. "It will increase foot traffic on Main Street as well as provide the needed service of an adult education facility in an easily accessible location for residents of Lockport."

"The aesthetics of our downtown have increasingly taken center stage in development efforts since the 1990s, and 50 Main St. is an attractive building that should remain so. The right use and the right tenant are critical to that,” said County Legislator Anthony J. Nemi of Lockport.

Niagara County acquired the building in an online auction in 2015, even though it didn't want to.

The owner, a California development company, was selling two other Lockport buildings where the county was leasing office space. The county wanted to buy those two buildings, at 111 Main St. and 20-40 East Ave., but the owner insisted in throwing in 50 Main. The county never came up with any use for it.

The county paid $3.6 million for the three buildings. It's selling 50 Main to the city for $1, and Smith said the city's development agency will sell the building to BOCES, also for $1.

The former bank is recognizable by a pedestal clock on the sidewalk, which has helped passing drivers and pedestrians tell time for a century – when it's functioning properly, which is not always the case.

Deputy County Historian Craig E. Bacon said the clock actually dates from 1914, having been installed by Cataract Bank, which had been at the intersection since 1858. Its building was torn down to make way for Niagara County National Bank, which had been located across the street since 1860 but needed larger quarters.

Godshall said BOCES also is considering the acquisition of property in Niagara Falls for further consolidation of its scattered adult education offerings.

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