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Renovation of former Tuscarora Club planned by City of Lockport development agency

LOCKPORT – The city’s development agency is making plans to renovate the interior of the former Tuscarora Club, in hopes that the century-old building might become some sort of lodging.

Greater Lockport Development Corp. foreclosed on the three-story building at 128 Walnut St. last year, after the last owner, Dominick J. DeFlippo, defaulted on a loan from the corporation. DeFlippo had operated the Tuscarora Inn restaurant.

On Thursday, in a closed session, the development agency board discussed two proposals for feasibility studies on reuse, but took no action. “We’re going to run some numbers,” said Brian M. Smith, city planning and development director.

He said the development agency eventually may sell the property, or it might decide to keep control and seek tenants.

“It’s a good fit for a boutique hotel or a bed-and-breakfast, or mixed use with apartments on the second and third floors,” Smith said.

The first floor has the restaurant’s kitchen equipment and the original polished wood bar. The other two floors are “big empty rooms,” Smith said, but the 14,944-square-foot building is in good shape. There’s also a finished 4,876-square-foot basement that, according to Smith’s predecessor, R. Charles Bell, contains the remnants of a bowling alley. The building was erected in 1911 as a private social club for Lockport’s wealthy and influential, but a steady decrease in membership led to its closure in 2007. The restaurant opened in 2008.

The property, assessed by the city at $225,000, also includes a long-vacant 3,000-square-foot, two-story house. Smith said he expects that the house would be demolished to make room for more parking.

On another topic, Smith told the development agency board that more than 20 applications were received for downtown building-improvement grants through the New York Main Street program.

The city was allocated $250,000 and is keeping $35,000 for its administrative costs, so $215,000 is available for grants to downtown Lockport property owners. The total sought far exceeds the money available, Smith said.

“It’s going to be competitive, but it’s great to see there’s that much interest in it,” he told the board. Its review committee will meet Tuesday to begin reviewing the applications, with awards likely to be approved in late October.

“The vast majority of the applications are for facade improvements,” Smith said. Only one applicant sought funding for an apartment, and that was only one unit.

“We need more,” said Heather B. Peck, program director for Lockport Main Street Inc. Promoting downtown housing was one of the grant program’s goals.

Smith also said renovations in Harrison Place to accommodate Torrent – a subsidiary of Trek Inc., which moved from Orchard Park to Lockport this summer – are nearly done.

Trek, an electronic instrument manufacturer, is the largest tenant at Harrison Place with about 100 employees. Torrent moved 22 jobs to Lockport, and the combined companies expect to add 14 more in the next two years.

Harrison Place is the former Harrison Radiator plant.