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Canal Street negotiations aren't looking promising; Talks are over purchase of two vacant buildings

Negotiations to bring a seasonal recreation business to Canal Street appear to have stalled, with the city's development chief saying there might not be a deal this year if one can't be made by April.

R. Charles Bell, director of planning and development, said last week that practical considerations for the company would keep it from setting up shop if an agreement can't be made by then.

The business, which has not been identified, had expressed interest in buying both the vacant city-owned buildings on the Canal Street block, 51 Canal and 79-81 Canal.

There was competition for 51 Canal from a clothing store, Picasso Moon, but its owner, Lindsey Hicks, went public last month with his dissatisfaction over the city's negotiating style and dropped out of the bidding.

A third store, a flower and gift shop, was taking aim at 79-81 Canal, but Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, "It's probably not going to happen."

Last year, the Common Council approved a sale of 79-81 Canal to Hydraulic Race Co., operator of the Lockport Cave underground boat ride. But the company later backed away, asking for a lease instead of a purchase, and the city rejected that.

Clarence "Clancy" Burkwit, principal of Hydraulic Race, later said concern over an environmental lien on the street was a factor.

City officials countered that, saying the city offers to indemnify all prospective purchasers against problems with arsenic, lead, mercury and semivolatile organic chemicals in the ground beneath the paved parking lot on the Canal Street block.

Bell said the recreational sales and rental business seems to have internal problems that might be preventing it from making a deal.

Tucker said the city is sticking to its goal of placing businesses on the block that would attract tourists to spend money downtown.

"We're still trying to be as picky as we can," Tucker said. "We've had some opportunities and some near-misses, but I don't thing we're at the stage yet where we're going to get rid of it just to get rid of it."

The only tenant on the block is Trek Inc., the Medina-based high-tech firm that signed a four-year lease with two four-year renewal options on two floors of 57 Canal St. The company moved its research and engineering departments there last year.