Lancaster has struggled for years to revive the downtown West Main Street corridor, but now has two competing proposals from developers to transform the short, dead-end street that was a bustling hub of shops three decades ago.
Changes could finally be on the horizon as the village tries to redefine its downtown business core, as Hamburg, East Aurora, Kenmore and Orchard Park have done in recent years.
A $30 million proposal submitted by newly formed Stampede Capital Partners, of Lancaster, pitches an extensive three-story mixed-use development with luxury apartments, high-end townhouses along Cayuga Creek, a centralized business and entertainment district with an all-season pavilion, parking ramp and pond.
The village’s Community Development Corp. also received an offer the same day from its longtime legal counsel and former property manager, Mark S. Aquino, to buy the agency’s nearly 5-acre chunk on West Main for $845,000. No detailed plans by Aquino have been submitted; Just a purchase offer for the land to be acquired from the agency and the village.
“This is the best proposal we have seen as yet,” James Allein, head of the Community Development Corp., said of the Stampede Square project. “Everyone is excited. There is some tweaking that would need to be done.”
Either way, reviving the West Main Street corridor is no easy feat.
The street dead-ends at a funky 20-foot dropoff to a lower level where there’s the hulking former BOCES complex and a Save-A-Lot grocery store. It could be a developer’s curse or dream.
“We didn’t want to work against that existing grade,” said William T. Severyn, who is partners with his brother Alex in Stampete Capital Partners. “It’s not feasible to do a street through due to the elevation.”
Aquino could not be reached by The Buffalo News for information about his plans.
But the Severyn brothers - who recently bought and restored the Hogan & Willig building at 43 Central Ave., which includes a few loft apartments and their Ambitious Enterprises real estate investment company - said their proposal will help spur revitalization of the central business district by attracting downtown residents and stores.
The early buzz on the Severyn’s plan, called Stampede Square, is cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a great idea if they can make it come to fruition,” Deputy Mayor Kenneth O’Brien III said. “If they can find a hub to bring in people, then the other businesses will thrive and new ones will come into it.”
The Severyn brothers said the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Mo., which has drawn widespread accolades for its impact in revitalizing that city’s downtown. was their inspiration. The concept for Stampede Square would mirror that of the Kansas City’s gem, they said, with an entertainment component and open-air pavilion.
In a nutshell, their plan calls for:
• Three three-story apartment buildings at the corner of Aurora Street and Pleasant Avenue, with 16 to 18 units, totaling 54 in all.
• Two mixed-use commercial and residential buildings at both 11 and 16 W. Main St. to frame in and support the central promenade.
• Create a community square known as Stampede Square at the end of West Main with a pedestrian-only walkway and an upper concourse and lower terrace. A grand staircase will lead to a lower concource area with retail space, terrace gardens and a performance stage.
• An open-air heated pavilion and performance stage that could be used all seasons and could host a farmers market, broadcasts of Buffalo Bills games, and entertainment.
• A community park would be constructed behind the performance stage and would feature a small pond.
• On the left side of the West Main Street exit ramp would be a two-story parking ramp for 38 vehicles.
• Fourteen owner-occupied townhouses would be constructed along Cayuga Creek with a private road at the base of the West Main Street exit ramp.
“We want to create a multi-level mixed-use entertainment district with exterior walkways and a covered pavilion in what now is a hole in the ground,” said Alex Severyn.
They hope to harvest the potential in their hometown.
“The residents in Lancaster have been going to Williamsville and East Aurora and bypassing the village,” William Severyn said. “Lancaster is the last (community) to do something.”
Part of the Severyns’ project requires the tearing down of a 19,000-square-foot concrete foundation left over from Erie Counthy’s partial demolition of the former BOCES complex a few years ago. The village is applying for a $250,000 state grant to do that.
“It’s so important because if the surface is prepared for development, private investors are better positioned for bank financing,” Village Trustee Dawn Robinson said. “I don’t think anything is perfect, but it’s a really great concept.”
Allein said he likes the Stampede Square concept, but thinks it’s a bit heavy on residential and would like a better balance of retail in the mix. “We love the pavilion idea,” he said of the project. “But we’d like to see more stores and parking.”
The Save-A-Lot Store that is under a long-term lease through 2023 could remain, but likely have its building space redone under the Stampede Square proposal, Alex Severyn said.