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Sale of Canal Street building likely

It looks like the Common Council will approve the sale of 79-81 Canal St. to the operators of the Lockport Cave next week.

Clarence K. "Clancy" Burkwit, who officially is majority owner of Hydraulic Race Co., which operates the boat ride under Canal Street, said at Wednesday's Council work session that the company wants to make a $70,000 cash deal for the city-owned building.

Four of the six aldermen supported the sale.

Reluctance was voiced by Alderman Andrew D. Chapman, who said he was surprised to learn that the money will not go to the regular city coffers but rather to its development agency, the Greater Lockport Development Corp., which leased the Canal Street block from the city.

Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr. said he doesn't want to do business with Thomas P. Callahan, the other figure in Hydraulic Race.

Callahan has a $2 million judgment pending against him over a failed business deal from more than a decade ago. There have been other judgments against Callahan that are no longer active.

"I think there's a little bit of a bad track record," Smith said. "I don't know that there's necessarily a legal risk, but nobody wants to take a moral stance. It's not a person I myself would want to do business with."

But Burkwit is the 51 percent owner of the company, according to official documents, and Callahan is the 49 percent partner.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano told the aldermen that the terms of the deal bar the building from being resold for five years.

"Make it 10 years. Make it 20," Burkwit said. He said the company would rather stay at Old City Hall, but its owners have placed the building up for sale and the Cave needs a new ticket office near the Erie Canal locks, where the boat ride begins. It drew 25,000 customers last year.

"To me, this is a project that fits everything we've talked about for Canal Street from Day One," Council President Richelle J. Pasceri said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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