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Lockport’s Tuscarora Club revamp has a lower price tag than expected

LOCKPORT – A makeover of the defunct Tuscarora Club into a restaurant and 10 apartments would cost an estimated $1.58 million, which is less than city officials were expecting.

The vacant building at 128 Walnut St. fell into the hands of the city’s development agency in December 2014 after it foreclosed on an unpaid loan it made to the last owner, Dominick J. DeFlippo, who operated a restaurant called the Tuscarora Inn. The three-story building has a footprint of 5,600 square feet.

Brian M. Smith, city planning and development director and president of Greater Lockport Development Corp., said Thursday that the cost estimate “sounds like a big number, but for the size of building it is, I was pleasantly surprised.”

R. Charles Bell of H. Sicherman & Associates, the city’s development consultant, said the makeover would be “a really good candidate” for a state grant under the resuscitated Restore New York program.

Smith said the city’s goal is to sell the building “to someone who would do a good job with it,” but if a state grant is obtained, the city agency would have to keep title until the grant money is spent. Smith said the city has until July 13 to send Albany a letter of intent, with the full grant application due Oct. 3.

He said the city has had inquiries from the private sector about redevelopment, but the lack of a cost estimate kept them from progressing.

The number is contained in a report from Smart Design Architects of Batavia, with the construction detail provided by Lamparelli Construction Co. of Cheektowaga.

The National Register-eligible building began as a private residence in the mid-19th century. The Tuscarora Club, a men’s social club, opened there in 1911 and lasted nearly a century before folding.

“Executives from General Motors, in its heyday, used to stay on the third floor,” Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said. The report says the third floor was divided into numerous “dormitory” rooms. There also is a long-unused bowling alley in the basement.

The Smart Design plan proposes three two-bedroom apartments and seven one-bedroom apartments, with the restaurant and event space reopening on the first floor. But to accomplish that, the building needs extensive electrical and plumbing improvements, the report says. It also recommends a new roof and removal of what the report presumes are lead-based paints and old floor tiles containing asbestos.

Bell said rental income from the apartments would help cover about half of any debt incurred upfront for a renovation project.

He said, “I don’t think anybody (in City Hall) wants to own it indefinitely, but get it to where it’s cash-flowing, get your investment back and get out.”

“Our preference is to sell this property,” Smith said, but if that doesn’t happen right away, “it’s our job to move this project forward.”