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Vacant Lockport bank building may become BOCES center

LOCKPORT - A vacant former bank in the heart of downtown Lockport soon may become an adult education center, operated by the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

If the deal works out, the building at 50 Main St. would to be transferred by Niagara County to the city, which in turn would convey it to BOCES, said John J. Ottaviano, corporation counsel for the City of Lockport.

BOCES Superintendent Clark Godshall, however, said his organization is not committed to the site.

"We're exploring a number of sites in Lockport where we could consolidate our operations in Lockport," Godshall said.

A decision may not be made for a couple of months, he said.

BOCES currently offers adult education classes at Grace Episcopal Church on Genesee Street in Lockport.

"We are the third-largest job training center in New York State," Godshall said. "We do all kinds of adult education. We're big in GEDs," he said of high school equivalency diplomas.

Orleans-Niagara BOCES serves about 5,000 adult students a year, Godshall said.

If the 50 Main St. deal is made, city Planning and Development Director Brian M. Smith said it would boost the city's efforts to assist residents of the poor neighborhood just south of downtown. The city's development agency and a consulting firm are working on a South Street revitalization plan.

Smith said he likes the idea of a work force development and job training operation within walking distance of South Street. Also, city officials worry about the impact of a vacant building in the center of the business district.

"It's an interesting building, but it has been vacant for a while. It'll be good to have some activity there," Smith said.

The last tenant at the site at Main and Pine streets was the Niagara County Community College Small Business Development Center, which had a lease on the building. The clock outside the building still bears an NCCC sign, but its corporate training center moved back to the college's Sanborn campus in 2012.

The county purchased the building in 2015. The acquisition came in a $3.6 million package deal with two other downtown Lockport buildings where the county leased office space. The seller, a California real estate firm, insisted on unloading all three buildings.

The county never has come up with any use for 50 Main, a three-story structure covering 14,506 square feet, including the basement.

"We don't want it," said Jeffrey E. Gaston, county buildings and grounds director. "My guys are shoveling the sidewalks. We don't need the expense."

BOCES representatives have toured 50 Main several times, Gaston said.

"I know they were excited about it," he said.

Several prospective buyers have toured the building in the past 10 months, but no purchase offers resulted, County Manager Richard E. Updegrove said.

Ottaviano, the city's lawyer, said he didn't think much, if any, money would change hands in the transactions that would place the building in BOCES' hands.

"Depending on the project or the proposed use, there could be a benefit to the county other than a monetary purchase price,"  Updegrove said.

The process of transferring the building is to begin Tuesday, when the County Legislature is expected to vote to declare the building surplus property. The resolution doesn't say what would be done with it.

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