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Downtown businesses to receive experts' aid Aim is to improve Lockport Main Street

The city's Main Street promotion effort will be getting into gear in March, hosting a group of experts from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and holding candid chats with business owners.

Program manager Heather Peck said Wednesday that a team of four consultants chosen by the National Trust will be in town March 9-12 to gather information that can be used to create a customized plan for improving business conditions in downtown Lockport.

The visit will include a community reception from 5 to 7 p.m. March 10 in the Lockport Main Street program office in the Old Post Office, 1 East Ave.; a full day of closed-door interviews with small groups of officials and business people March 11; and a public presentation of preliminary findings by the consultants March 12.

Peck said the latter event will probably be held in City Hall in the afternoon, but plans are not yet firm.

Lockport was among three communities along the Erie Canal chosen for the National Trust's Main Street Program. The others, Albion and Lyons, already have hosted their teams of consultants, according to Jayme Breschard, regional coordinator for the program.

"The costs [of the consultants] are being provided for free by the National Trust, because of the grant we got for the Western Erie Canal Alliance," said Breschard, who works at the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.

Peck said she has already lined up some business owners to take part in the March 11 talks but is looking for more participants. She said she would like business people not just from the city but Lockport's nearby environs, too. She can be reached at 525-0620 or by e-mail at heatherbpeck@yahoo.com.

"After three days, we'll be making a comprehensive plan of action for the next three years," Peck said. "What the consultants want to know [from business people] is, 'What do you think about Lockport? What do you want to see from this program?' "

The interview sessions will be confidential to encourage plain speaking, she said.

The consultants will take a driving tour of the area and will go door-to-door on Main Street, checking out the space both available and occupied and "taking a lot of photographs," Peck said.

Breschard said in the wake of the March 12 presentation, the consul
tants will issue a report of about 50 pages that will be customized for Lockport's particular situation.

She will be on the team, along with Elise Tinsley of the National Trust's Washington office; Matthew Wagner, president of Nitro Development, a Wisconsin company; and Kent Schuette, associate professor of architecture and historic preservation at Purdue University.

Although the National Trust arrangement called for Lockport to commit $50,000 a year for three years, the consulting help from the organization was guaranteed for only this year.

However, Breschard said the Western Erie Canal Alliance is applying to the New York Department of State for funding that would pay for three more years of assistance from National Trust experts.

Peck said the interviews will be held in Lockport Main Street's new office space in the Old Post Office. A ribbon-cutting is set for 11:30 a.m. today in the 1,100-square-foot facility, provided at a discount price by building owner Steven Talarico.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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