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GOVERNMENT CENTER VIEWED AS ASSET

In the eyes of a county planner, Lackawanna has a major asset many small communities have surrendered -- a governmental heart that helps draw people to the city center.

Senior Planner Thomas Dearing, who works with many municipalities on their master plans, said village halls and post offices now often are located at the village limits, leaving a dead area at the center.

"You don't have that in Lackawanna," Dearing said. "Just remember you have something good right now."

His good word for the quality of life created by City Hall and a post office comes as some consider the wrecking ball for both.

Dearing spoke to about three dozen residents and officials who gathered to offer thoughts on redeveloping the neighborhood surrounding Our Lady of Victory Basilica.

The strategic area under study by Lackawanna, Buffalo and Erie County centers on South Park Avenue and Ridge Road.

It is anchored by the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, just across the border in Buffalo, and Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. It extends west to include the library -- a Carnegie library -- and St. Barbara's Catholic Church and Holy Cross Cemetery and, to the east, a vacant Kmart and Our Lady of Victory Hospital.

The audience offered these suggestions:

Provide a common parking area for visitors to the Botanical Gardens and basilica.

Explore housing other health service in the underutilized Our Lady of Victory Hospital.

Offer boat and bike rentals in South Park and improve the golf course.

Reroute heavy truck traffic from the intersection of Ridge Road and South Park Avenue.

Create gentler curving on three of the four corners -- excluding the corner of the Basilica -- at the Ridge-South Park intersection.

Ralph Miranda, a member of the Planning Board, said a few shabby buildings owned by absentee landlords might mar the vision.

"There are some on South Park and a couple on McKinley that are going to detract from whatever you do," said Miranda, who suggested stricter code enforcement.

Landscape architect Frank T. Brzezinski said period lighting in the Botanical Gardens could be extended, along with plantings, into the business area.

e-mail: mhammersley@buffnews.com

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