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Waterfront revitalization plan expands its focus to include all of the Village of Lewiston

VILLAGE OF LEWISTON – Since the mid-1990s the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) has been a vehicle to bring in more than $1 million in state grant money – funds used to improve the infrastructure at Lewiston Landing along the lower Niagara River.

Late last year, the state gave the village the go-ahead to expand the boundaries of the LWRP – also considered a master plan – to include the entire village. Now, an advisory board put in place this month will be tasked to come up with a master plan to address areas beyond the waterfront.

Village Engineer Michael Marino of CRA Engineering said the original LWRP was focused on Lewiston Landing, along the waterfront and Water Street area, and the village was able to leverage funding from the state Environmental Protection Fund to complete repairs and updates.

Marino said similar plans are in place for other waterfront communities, including Buffalo and North Tonawanda.

“Everything along Center Street supplements tourism and draws people to the village and its waterfront,” he said.

Marino said officials started with a goal of getting ideas to update Academy Park, but then realized that both the park and the new master plan should be addressed at the same time.

“Obviously they have the ice rink there in the winter time, all the various festivals, but over the years things have evolved and people are realizing there are some drainage lines through there that aren’t documented and some power lines that aren’t documented,” he said. “They need to have a plan.”

He said the state provided $75,000 for the update, which should take about a year. The meetings and public hearings will be open to the public.

“Their job will be to put the input into a vision,” he said.

The LWRP is part of a transformation of the village over the past 20 years. Marino said it goes back to a time when there was a railroad bed on First Street and the Silo restaurant was an abandoned coal silo.

Phase I, in the late 1990s, brought the construction of Onondaga Trail behind the Village Hall, along Onondaga Street, and to Lewiston Landing – as well as the development of the fish-cleaning station on the waterfront. The total cost was about $300,000.

Phase II between 2000 and 2010 brought the demolition of the Department of Public Works garage, which allowed for the addition of a parking lot for visitors on Water Street. The project also included brick walkways at the waterfront and replacement of a staircase from Water Street to the waterfront boat launch areas. Phase II cost $400,000.

Though admitting that this phase “went on too long,” Marino noted the village is responsible for a 50/50 match of state funds – much of it from providing in-kind services.

“That’s partly why these things took so long, because the village did the construction. That saved them a lot of money and they got more done with the money. They built the walkways. They did the lights. They did a lot of that work,” said Marino.

Phase III, between 2010 and 2013, cost $150,000 – money that was used to provide finishing touches, including replacing floating aluminum docks and adding walkways.

“It all dovetails into the LWRP, which is designed to get the area ready for tourism and recreation,” Marino said.

Though the funding focus now is the entire village, it doesn’t mean that Lewiston Landing will be ignored.

Funding for Phase IV was approved in December and will provide $355,000 to update floating docks, walkways and sheet pile walls.

The updated area will be the south end of the property, behind Water Street Landing restaurant.

“That area has the original shoreline, which is a concrete structure and a wooded walkway. All that has been undermined over the years because of the river flow there,” Marino said. “This phase will install heavy sheet pile there, just like we have at the north side, by the Silo. (We will also) install new boater utility pedestals that will provide electricity and water for people who are parked there.”

He said the Whirlpool Jet Boat, which uses a floating dock, ultimately will be able to attach the dock to the new wall.

“The shoreline there is kind of falling into the river, so this will help shore all that up,” he said. “There will also be new lights.”

He said this area is used for water sport and recreational activities by organizations including the Neptune Ski Club, and these and previous updates will help increase tourism in the area.

“We really want to encourage use of the waterfront,” Marino said.

In addition to LWRP funding, the village also has received Greenway, Department of Environmental Conservation and State Parks grants to replace the boat launch, install garden/green areas near the parking lot and develop the Underground Railroad and Tuscarora Heroes monuments.

Also under consideration are Greenway or LWRP money to build a park-like promenade over the parking lot, including an ice-skating run, fountains and a warming building with a railroad theme, Marino said

“It’s all pie in the sky right now,” he said, “but these are concepts floating around out there and it would be good to pull them all together.”