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Lancaster’s West Main Street initiative draws no developers, forcing village to put complex up for sale

No developers have submitted plans for Lancaster’s West Main Street complex, forcing the village’s community-development arm to list the 4-acre site and buildings for sale.

With no development proposals, the agency is preparing to sell the property and former Board of Cooperative Educational Services complex at 11 W. Main St. in the downtown village business district just off Central Avenue. A mix of retail, residential and offices had originally been envisioned for the area.

It was not an easy decision, but a seemingly necessary one.

“We had some good dreams, but no developers. They are few and far between,” said James B. Allein, president of Community Development Corp., which owns the complex. He gave a brief update Monday to the Village Board on the latest turn of events. “We’re trying,” he said, “but we’re being realistic.”

With developers focused on numerous big projects in downtown Buffalo, Allein said, he understands the lack of interest. “This is one peanut out of a big bag of peanuts,” he said after the board meeting.

The property, including a Save-A-Lot grocery store and partly vacant complex, faces fiscal woes, owing $600,000 on its mortgage. “We’re paying the interest, but not the principal payments,” Allein said. “It’s been going on a long time.”

The site is important because it is viewed as the cornerstone to help revive the West Main downtown business district. But even with part of the complex razed, it has failed to lure developer interest all summer and fall, despite the village having extended efforts to craft new requests for proposals.

Adding to woes was the loss of $30,000 in rent since January, when three tenants left because the building’s roof – which has since been repaired – leaked badly, Allein said.

With problems like that, “you can’t survive,” Allein said. “We’ve just been able to keep our chin above water. We’d talked about selling it in bits and pieces,” he said, “but we owe the bank a mortgage and thought, “Let’s see if we can get this sold.’ ”

Still, Allein hopes that a developer may emerge. “We’re cautiously optimistic we’ll get something from that one developer,” he said, declining to identify the company.

In the meantime, Community Development Corp. broke off its contract with consultant Robert L. Dimmig, whom it had hired in the summer. “No developer came through, so we couldn’t afford to keep him,” Allein said, noting that the agency was paying Dimmig $1,000 a month since summer.

Last week, Allein signed documents with Pyramid to list the site for sale and an appraisal is the next step. Village officials would not speculate on the asking price.

Allein held out hope that maybe the property being for sale could spur developer interest.

The agency also hired Matthew P. Murphy, a tenant and owner of Aurora Imprints, as its new property manager – replacing Mark S. Aquino as property manager. The agency is paying Murphy $750 monthly to collect rent and do repairs. He also pays monthly rent for his business.

Aquino, still staying on as the agency’s legal counsel for $100 per month, was being paid $900 monthly as property manager.

Even if the site and complex are purchased, any future development plans would face village Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Board approvals, Allein said. “They just can’t come in and build a 10-story building,” he said.