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Future of Lancaster’s 11 West Main Street complex discussed

Erie County officials paid a visit to Lancaster’s village community development arm to talk about the 11 West Main Street complex.

The village had hoped to redevelop the complex into a mix of retail, residential and offices, but after no development proposals materialized, it’s now supposed to be listed for sale.

“We need to make sure what happens there would be eligible for community development block grant funding,” Paul D’Orlando, senior contract monitor of the county’s Environmental & Planning Department, told the village Community Development Corp., which owns the complex in the business district just off Central Avenue.

So far, the county has spent a combined $650,000 of federal money for the partial demolition of the vacant complex. The complex is located on a nearly 5-acre site that includes a Save-A-Lot grocery store that has a lease through 2023.

But the county pulled back a $325,000 grant when the village decided not to extend West Main Street through the existing parking lot to Aurora Street, as had been the case in the late 1960s.

“Our purpose here is to make sure you don’t go down the road on some project and then we have an issue,” said Ken Swanekamp, director of business assistance for county Environment & Planning. “Housing and Urban Development is the judge and jury.”

The vision for the redevelopment of West Main should still meet federal funding guidelines provided it meets low- to middle-income requirements. Market-rate apartments should be OK, but high-income apartments would trigger a problem, county officials said.

The village development agency plans to list the property for sale with Cushman Wakefield/Pyramid for six months, but said it is still waiting for an appraisal before doing that. Some agency board members still were hopeful an unidentified developer that indicated previous interest in the site may still come forward with a plan.

But Mayor Paul Maute has had it. “I think hanging our hat on this developer is getting stale. We need to move on,” he said. “We’ve been waiting and waiting. Both developers backed out. I don’t want us to sit back and wait. Put it for sale.”

Village Trustee Kenneth O’Brien III didn’t mince words, reminding the CDC that the village asked it to list the property for sale in October 2013. “Now it’s January 2016,” he said, noting the continued postponements.

Agency board member John Chmarney, who heads the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, said the agency needs to assess its future role. “We need a plan and to decide what we want to be when we grow up,” he said. “Instead of looking at this year after year, let’s do something.”