Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 5, 2013

Cache building under way

By Joyce M. Miles joyce.miles@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Hydraulic Race Co. launched its 19th season of Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride tours Saturday at its new home base, 5 Gooding St.

Visitors purchased their passes at the still-under-construction Lockport Cave ticket office which, even in its incomplete condition, invites them to dwell awhile.

From a back deck overlooking the Erie Canal at the base of the Flight of Five locks, spectators can see what’s “behind” Main Street, including the city-owned Electric Building, which dates back to the 1830s and, according to Hydraulic Race co-owner Thomas Callahan, is the oldest structure remaining from the canal building era. To the west there’s a different view of Old City Hall, a stone building that appears to rise out of the escarpment.

Lockport Cave tours are guided walking tours of the Lockport locks and the hydraulic raceway north of them that Birdsill Holly, developer of central systems for home heating, water service and fire suppression, used to power his local factories in the mid- to late 1800s.

The first weekend in May is the earliest that Hydraulic Race Co. has ever kicked off its tour season, Callahan said. In 1995, its first year in business, the season was 90 days. Today it’s seven-plus months, from May through mid-November.

Three new tours are being introduced in June: a Ghost Hunters’ Experience, a Lantern Lit (nighttime) cave tour and an occasional Flight of Five-centered cave tour.

Hydraulic Race has acquired a Holly Manufacturing-made bell, date-stamped 1879 and likely made for a school or fire house, that will be set up on top of the finished ticket office. Its ringing will signal to ticket holders that the next walking tour is about to start, Callahan said.

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As was reported by Lockport Sunday in mid-February, 11 local businesses and not-for-profit organizations are investing $25 million in capital improvements, expansion or shop openings downtown in 2013-2014. The lion’s share of investment is in industrial or tourism-related development. Here are brief updates on the status of those projects.

TREK INC.: Renovation of Building 4 at Harrison Place is well under way for the high-end manufacturer, which is aiming to relocate operations and 72 employees from Medina by July, according to Greater Lockport Development Corporation President R. Charles Bell. Transformation of the century-old building’s exterior should start within the next couple of weeks as new windows are installed throughout.

FLIGHT OF FIVE WINERY: A hoped-for Memorial Day weekend opening of the urban winery at Old City Hall, 2 Pine St., is likely pushed back to early summer due to the time it’s taking to obtain a state license to manufacture and serve wine on the premises, Flight of Five Winery co-owner Jackie Connelly said last week.

On the brighter side, buildout of the winery, on the upper level of Old City Hall, is going smoothly. A custom-made tasting bar, shaped like a canal lock and made from 200-year-old reclaimed timbers, “is coming along beautifully,” Connelly said.

Flight of Five winemaker Dave Lindsay presently is blending five new wines, named Locks 67 through 71 after the famous series, and they’ll be ready for serving at the opening.

OLD CITY HALL: Renovation of Old City Hall in its entirety, upper and lower levels, and restoration of the building’s “core,” are in full swing, building owner Scott Geise said last week.

Geise is aiming to land retail tenants in addition to the Flight of Five Winery and presently is in talks with several parties about a “hospitality venture” in the lower level, which has a separate entrance and a patio area overlooking the canal.

LAKE EFFECT ICE CREAM: The artisan ice cream maker is on track for a Memorial Day weekend opening of its sit-down parlor at 79-81 Canal St. The company originally planned to move its production kitchen from Lock Street first but will now do that after the parlor opening, due to a construction issue, co-owner Erik Bernardi said.

With sleek tile flooring, cherry wood furnishings and marble accents, the finished parlor will be “a modern take on an old-school parlor. It’ll be something unlike anywhere else, different in a good way,” co-owner Jason Wulf promises.

FLIGHT OF FIVE RESTORATION: Construction work to make Locks 69 and 70 operable again should get under way in July, after the state Canal Corporation awards the job on competitive bidding.

The job will consist of removing or modifying dams in the more than 165-year-old locks, removing accumulated sediment, repairing/replacing wooden flooring and installing new wooden gates and gate arms for manual opening and closing of the chambers.

Replacement of original masonry will be minimal and only as needed to ensure public safety, restoration Program Manager Peter Welsby said. Work will be ongoing through June 2014.

CITY PARKING GARAGE: Despite a lawsuit filed last week by a rejected contractor, the city has given Empire Dismantlement Corp. the green light to start pre-demolition work on Monday. Empire was hired to take down the parking garage and install a surface parking lot in its place.

Its contract with the city requires the job be finished within 90 days of Empire starting, which should mean it’ll be done, landscaping and all, by early August. However, the timetable could be affected by Scott Yard Lawn Inc.’s suit against the city.

The Sanborn contractor claims it placed the low bid for the work and wants a court order awarding it the job. A hearing on Scott Yard’s request for a temporary restraining order against the city is set for Thursday in state Supreme Court.

PASSENGER TRAIN PLATFORM: Talks are under way with Medina Railroad Museum directors regarding city construction of a passenger train platform at 29 Gooding St. A construction timetable is not set, but Mayor Tucker said last week that the platform can, and likely will, be built this summer.

LOCKPORT ICE ARENA & SPORTS COMPLEX: Construction plans are still being drafted for the arena, LIASC committee member Chuck Bell said last week. Bank financing, for the portion of the estimated $10 million tab that’s not covered by grants or federal tax credits, will be determined by construction costs and the arena design team is working through various scenarios for achieving biggest bang for the buck, he said.

To open the arena in August 2014 as the committee hopes, plans and financing have to be finalized, and construction must get under way no later than July, he added.