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Lockport seeks plan to enhance neighborhood around Harrison Place

LOCKPORT – The city’s development agency hired a consulting firm Thursday to report on ways to have a run-down residential neighborhood south of downtown benefit more from nearby commercial growth.

H. Sicherman and Co., already retained as the consultant to Greater Lockport Development Corp., will be paid an additional $53,000 to deliver a report on how to help residents of South Street.

That street runs past Harrison Place, the former auto parts plant that has become a successful business incubator.

The main tenant is Trek Inc., a manufacturer of electronic instruments, whose jobs are highly technical.

“There are another 47 businesses at Harrison Place,” said Brian M. Smith, city director of planning and development. “Most of them are small. … These are jobs people can be trained for.”

The Sicherman report, which is expected by November, is being paid for with a $50,000 grant from the state Office of Community Renewal and $3,000 in city funds. R. Charles Bell, Smith’s predecessor, is now a partner in the Sicherman firm.

Smith said the idea behind the study is not to find ways to keep South Street from dragging down Harrison Place, but how to have the presence of business help the neighborhood.

“There is this neighborhood that is in such close proximity to the commercial part,” Smith said. “What can we do to make the commercial success reflect in the neighborhood?”

Smith said the consulting firm will offer some opportunities for public input before writing its report.

“Workforce development is going to be part of it,” Smith said.

On other topics, Smith said the city microenterprise-assistance program still has about $160,000 available to help small businesses. Most of that money, $150,000, was granted by the state originally to aid boutique hotels in Lockport, but no such hotels have surfaced, so Smith sought to have the money repurposed.

He said he has had talks with people considering opening a small hotel. “For one reason or another, nobody’s pulling the trigger,” he said.

But there could be other small companies opening soon.

“I’m starting to see in the last six weeks or so more office users coming and saying they’re interested in downtown Lockport. They usually say they like the vibe downtown, and I think the microenterprise program has a lot to do with that,” Smith said.

He also told members of the development board that next month, they will hear of a marketing plan to assist downtown Lockport retailers, being prepared by the J. Fitzgerald Group. The agency paid $1,500 for that.

On another matter, the board agreed to divide itself into four groups with staggered terms, so three of the 12 members’ terms will expire each year. A new bylaw limiting members to two consecutive terms was adopted earlier this year. After sitting out a year, former board members can be reappointed. The other board members choose the appointees. A 13th board seat is held by the mayor and is not subject to term limits.