Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 3, 2013

OUR VIEW: City Centre offered new life

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A gaping hole sat in the middle of downtown for decades. A vacant lot, where proud buildings from halcyon days once stood, served as a blight for city residents who wondered if Lockport would ever again find its way.

Then David Ulrich offered a plan: a 30,000 square-foot two-building center that would include space for offices, retail and restaurants. When the Ulrich City Centre opened not even 10 years ago, it breathed new life into Lockport. It hasn’t solved all of downtown’s ills — far from it — but it has served as a large piece of the puzzle in making the city’s core an attractive place to do business and shop.

Similar to Lockport Professional Park, the city centre has a classy feel to it and it looks like it’s been a part of downtown all along. That’s no easy accomplishment. David Ulrich recently sold his City Centre, and he deserves praise for the project.

First, he didn’t have to do anything with the vacant lot. He was warned that the venture would be a gamble. In fact, in Jan. 2006 the assistant director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency said that the return on investment “would appear to be quite low.”

When the centre opened, it wasn’t close to being at 90 percent occupancy. Still, Ulrich stuck with his building and was ultimately rewarded. He was able to attract tenants and today the development is fully occupied.

And that return on investment? Ulrich is believed to have spent about $3 million to get the project done. It was sold for $3.575 million, a tidy little profit. Undoubtedly Ulrich could have enjoyed a larger windfall with a different project somewhere else, but he decided to fill a hole in the middle of his hometown.

Since the center opened the canal concerts took up residency in the parking lot for five years, drawing newcomers to Lockport, even if they only visited. With new businesses popping up in downtown, those visitors may be enticed to come back. It seems Lockport is better off with City Centre.

While downtown will never surpass Transit Road as Lockport’s business core, it is more vibrant than it was a decade ago.

Now, with a new owner in Sinatra & Company, the torch has been passed. We’re eager to see what’s next for the heart of the city.