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Bicycle rental business gets approval for Canal Street lease

A second tenant for Canal Street, a seasonal bicycle rental business, was approved Thursday by the Greater Lockport Development Corp.

Although the lease isn't signed yet, Ellen Martin, owner of Sweet Sixteen Cafe, has agreed to a three-year deal for the first floor of 51 Canal St., one of three city-owned buildings on the block on the north bank of the Erie Canal.

"I looked at a bunch of spaces, and Canal Street was the best fit," Martin said. "It has a ramp down to the towpath, and the towpath is great for biking."

R. Charles Bell, city director of planning and development, said the lease price hasn't been finalized, but the business is expected to open Memorial Day weekend.

Martin confirmed that and said she will add about five part-time workers, while flexing some of her cafe's employees into the bike rental store.

In future years, she plans to be open May 1 to Oct. 1, renting bikes by the day or half day.

Martin said she expects to offer a fleet of 20 to 30 "one-speed bikes with coaster brakes, just like the Schwinn bikes we had when we were kids."

Martin said snacks and box lunches will be prepared at Sweet Sixteen, 16 W. Main St., and taken to 51 Canal to be offered for sale at the new business, to be called Sweet Ride Rental.

Bell said the development corporation will foot the bill for the preparation of the roughly 1,000-square-foot space. Zak Remodeling of Orchard Park was awarded a $30,200 contract for the "build-out."

That's the same company that prepared the building in which Martin's cafe is located. "We've seen their quality work with historic buildings," Bell said.

He added that to avoid deterioration of the vacant building at 51 Canal, the development corporation was expecting to spend $10,000 to $15,000 this year to install a heating and air-conditioning system. Now that can be done in conjunction with a new tenant.

The first permanent tenant on Canal Street since the city renovated three buildings, mostly with state and federal funds, was Trek Inc., a Medina-based technology company that moved its research and development office to 57 Canal St. last year.

Martin said she has applied for a microenterprise grant from the development corporation for Sweet Ride Rental but doesn't know if she got it.

A batch of grants were approved by the corporation's board in closed session Thursday; Bell said he didn't want to release the list until the winners are informed.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said a news conference will be held at 2 p.m. Monday to make the announcements.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the state Open Meetings Law allows action in executive session as long as the results are disclosed within five days.

Also Thursday, the board agreed to serve as administrator for a grant of about $300,000 that Hydraulic Race Co. is seeking from the state Canal Corp.

Bell said Hydraulic Race, owner of the Lockport Cave underground boat ride, is seeking funds to rehabilitate some old industrial properties near the cave, including the long-closed Richmond Mill.

Bell said if the grant is approved, there's no money in it for the development corporation, but Hydraulic Race needed the name of a not-for-profit agency to place on its grant application.

Harry Sicherman, consultant to the development corporation, said the notion of making the old industrial sites into something of an attraction was included in the city's initial application for federal aid for the Canal Street project in 1997.