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The notion of a canal heritage center on the site of a former foundry, linking up with a possible railroad museum in the restored Union Station, was floated during a forum for the city's top business people Tuesday.

The apparent purchase of the vacant former Jubilee supermarket on Chestnut Street by South Block developer David L. Ulrich also surfaced during the two-hour session in Lockport Public Library.

The meeting was called by the committee overseeing a $40,000 project to develop a strategic marketing plan for downtown Lockport. Business leaders were invited to tell the consultants writing the plan what they see as the needs and possibilities for the central business district.

The city hired Wendel Duscherer of Amherst to produce the plan by the end of the year, and Camoin Associates of Saratoga Springs received a subcontract to survey business owners and tourists about the situation in downtown.

About 390 tourists filled out a survey this summer, and so far 65 of nearly 200 business surveys have been returned, according to Ellen Pemrick of Camoin.

Kathy O'Keefe, owner of Little Voice Books and Toys, said she has been working with Common Council President John Lombardi III on a plan for the 5.6-acre Dussault Foundry site at the northern end of Washburn Street.

The brownfield site would be suitable for what O'Keefe called "Heritage Station," which she explained as a depiction of Lockport's immigrant past.

"It's just like Colonial Williamsburg," O'Keefe said. "It's a story. You sell it."

Among the ideas is the restoration of the burned-out Union Station just east of the foundry, a wreck which has sat idle since a fire more than 30 years ago. Efforts to fund restoration of the privately owned building have come to nought.

James Dickinson, president of the Medina Railroad Museum, suggested a railroad museum there could be part of what he sees as a future transportation hub.

Dickinson and his vice president, Hugh F. James, said they are seeking rights to use the rail line from Lockport and Niagara Falls to extend their seasonal train excursions, which now run between Lockport and Medina.

However, the line is owned by CSX Transportation, which emphasizes freight shipping. "You know what they want for liability (insurance)? Half a billion dollars," Dickinson said.

Although that's an uphill fight, James said it's possible that political pressure and an insurance deal with Amtrak, which uses some of the track, could solve the problem.

O'Keefe said the Dussault-Union Station site would be perfect for large outdoor events.


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