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Only one proposal submitted for developing Lancaster's West Main Street

An investment group led by the Lancaster Community Development Corp.'s former longtime legal counsel and property manager submitted the only bid to redevelop a chunk of Lancaster's West Main Street business district that the LCDC owns.

The group led by attorney Mark S. Aquino submitted the only proposal by the LCDC's Nov. 21 deadline, but Aquino and agency officials declined Monday to share any details about the proposal.

LCDC officials, who have indicated they want to select a preferred developer for the project by the end of the year, also declined to provide The Buffalo News with a copy of the proposal.

Aquino resigned in September from his LCDC post, but until that time, had significant ties to the agency. Late Monday, he confirmed his investment group submitted a plan for West Main. At the same time, a Nov. 22 email written by agency board member Robert Dimmig to a review committee noted that "only one development team has submitted a response to the RFP."

"At this point, we are awaiting a review by the board of directors of the CDC of all proposals received. Once an award is made, I would be more than happy to comment on our group's plan," Aquino said in a text message to The News late Monday. "Any comment prior to said time does a disservice to the process."

The short, dead-end West Main Street in Lancaster was a thriving hub of shops more than 30 years ago. The village's economic development arm has been pushing during the last two years, without much success, to attract a developer to revive the area. The agency has been trying to sell the nearly five-acre parcel for $845,000.

The agency issued a new request for proposals in late October, its second in less than two years. The latest request was sent to 66 potential developers.

Lancaster-based Stampede Capital Partners had informally pitched an elaborate $30 million plan to revive the village's downtown area, but Stampede pulled the plug in early November, after growing increasingly frustrated with delays and the push for a new request for proposals. Stampede's plan called for a three-story mixed-use development with luxury apartments and high-end townhouses along Cayuga Creek and a business and entertainment district modeled after the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Mo.

The LCDC's parcel has a challenging physical dynamic, with an elevated section and a sprawling parking area below. The largest tenant is a Save A Lot store whose lease expires in 2023. The site used to house a grocery store in 1970 and once was later home to BOCES.

Dimmig's email urged LCDC committee members to each stop by the village clerk's office to get a copy of the proposal. It also went out of its way to urge confidentiality in the spirit of integrity, and mentioned previous media leaks. The steering committee is to review the proposal Wednesday and determine how the agency should move forward.

"No one should approach the developer and discuss the submission or our conversations on the review. No one should discuss the process with media other than to say that we are currently reviewing proposals, and will release information at the proper time," Dimmig's email said.

When reached last week by phone, Dimmig said the agency's outside legal counsel, Magavern Magavern & Grimm, advised against releasing the plan before it is formally acted upon. "It's not a matter of keeping it under wraps," Dimmig said, referring further questions to the law firm.

Attorney James L. Magavern said the outstanding proposal should be kept confidential "to protect the integrity of the process."

"Once the award has been made and there are no negotiations to protect ... Once it is awarded, it becomes public," he said. "I really don't want to go farther than that."

LCDC President James B. Allein spoke in general terms Monday, telling the Village Board the group would meet Wednesday to review "answers to the RFP."

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