The Union-Sun & Journal is in touch with Common Council candidates in competitive races to get their thoughts on different issues in the city of Lockport. Every Friday through the end of this month, we’re publishing the candidates’ answers to four questions asked of all of them.
Today’s question is: What more should be done, or should be done differently, to improve the city’s Central Business District (a.k.a. “downtown”) and / or other commercial areas?
Here are the candidates’ replies.
Some ideas to improve downtown Lockport or commercial areas that I support would be a database of vacant building registry. The purpose of the legislation that I would support states that vacant buildings are unsightly,unsafe, and have a negative effect on the community. Buildings once empty can remain this way for years as we in the City of Lockport are well aware of. We have a good supply of buildings that have remained vacant for too many years and this is a real problem in our city. The database of vacant buildings would include the owners name,address and property manager — if the owner is not local. We need to make sure that the buildings are safely secured, maintained, attractive and then occupied.
Also I believe that the cornerstone of a healthy business district is the city’s care and keeping of its property. We need to maintain the city’s streets by keeping them paved, swept and plowed. We must keep storm drains cleared. We need to make sure that garbage is cleaned up. That the city is safe and walkable. The parking lots are well lit and patrolled by the police department. We need to take care of the trees and green spaces. We have some great businesses within our city and we must continue to support them as a common council as we encourage new businesses to consider Lockport to reside in. Local government should be the “good stewards” of the city and it should be first and foremost to put the basic condition of all areas as a priority.
To improve the city’s Central Business District there needs to be a cohesive plan, set up in developmental stages and there should be some urgency in getting this done. It should include but not be limited to City Zoning and Public Works departments. There needs to be a discussion about incentives to bring small business to Lockport and how to best support the ones already there. WiFi is a must if Lockport is to move forward. Businesses need and expect it. It would improve communication, services and enhance the experience for businesses and visitors alike.
A clearer picture is needed as to what is going on in the city and where things are located. This can be done with historic inspired signage and modern day city app technology.
The canal is a great asset and should continue to be enhanced. Lockport has a rich and interesting history that should be seen and told throughout the city. We should work on making it a historical destination while also meeting the needs of the residents and businesses. Lockport has the potential to become a great modern historic city, with proper planning and a little passion it could become something quite wonderful.
At the core of a successful city is a densely populated and compact downtown. That downtown can be read like a book where the street, the sidewalk and the park are the grammar of that book. Improving downtown starts at street level and specific to Lockport’s downtown core are the Locks, and unique to Lockport is having both the modern and mechanized next to the historic and manual. These Locks and the area around them are our small city equivalent of a big city Central Park, and that park should be readily accessible to pedestrians, within a twenty-minute walk of the Locks. Specifically, pedestrians should be able to loop around that park as safely as they can cross it. Restoring the pedestrian walkway on the railroad bridge from Market Street to Gooding Street would complete that loop. If necessary, build a new pedestrian bridge between Market and Gooding. There is a precedent. The Reimagine New York Initiative is about to build a new pedestrian bridge across the canal in Brockport.
To build a successful downtown, our rules need to change. A simplification of our zoning code and other regulations would be a large part of that change. This would encourage tight knit, street level businesses and residential units above. Such a code would put human behavior and the physical form of our buildings before the movement and storage of cars. These changes should extend beyond downtown and minimally into the surrounding neighborhoods. Our building codes are about public safety, but our zoning code is focused on separating uses. Public uses should be varied and diverse on every downtown block and extend into the surrounding neighborhoods as well. Simplify our zoning codes and rules while maintaining high design standards that promote a livable, walkable, and sustainable downtown.
Live here, play here.
The outcome and impact of the recent $10 million state investment in the Central Business District will be critical in terms of the longer term strategy and footprint. I’m not aware of a shared public plan that has identified where all this funding is going and for what specifically? If it has, then I’m not sure many citizens have read it so they fully understand what it is in more detail. Improvements to the Flight of Five has been significant for traffic and visitors; that’s a positive. The downtown sector, while somewhat active in seasons, needs to be better utilized for mixed purposes. Empty space sends messages and images of unproductiveness, and therefore, less or minimalist investment in the city overall.
To combat this, we need a stronger coalition of the Lockport Business Association, commercial and private property owners, city leaders, and public input to strengthen those images. Can we come up with ideas to allow civic and cultural groups to showcase art, photos, or other local amenities that highlight positive aspects of the community? That doesn’t cost a lot to do, rent doesn’t need to be paid or insurance provided if people occupied those spaces, which are understandably issues for property owners. We need to establish more creative ways of showcasing those spaces, until a renter and tenant is in place, in partnership.
One idea that has caught on in Canada is turning open city storefront spaces into small learning centers for specific trades, skills or crafts. Small incubators that allow youth to learn a skill, either while in school or out of school, in partnership with the city, school district, and businesses. We also need the district to support a culture of learning that celebrates skills employers locally need and not just a “college for all” mentality.
I think downtown Lockport has a tremendous amount of potential and this is something I hope excites all of the residents of Lockport. Downtown is very unique because it has the modern and mechanized next to the historic and manual. In order to build a successful downtown, there needs to be a simplification of our zoning rules. This would encourage tight-knit, street-level businesses and residential units above. This will allow for high design standards that promote a liveable, walkable, and sustainable downtown. A lively downtown creates a tax base that not only pays its own way, but supplements the rest of the city as well. If we use the Locks as our focal point and work to rebuild a safe downtown for pedestrians and cyclists first, then diverse activities are encouraged.
When planning for the future, it is important to look at the past and apply lessons learned. In many ways, the days of generations visiting specialty shops along the Central Business District to buy everyday items is gone. Recent increases in online shopping and continually pushing for low-cost items, has closed local shops, malls, and mega stores.
Vacant parcels, old crumbling buildings, and empty factories all create significant blight. High rents for these spaces force businesses to look elsewhere and they continue to stay empty. This has a compounding effect that promotes a depressed tone reminding longtime residents of what was while scaring away future residents and businesses alike.
Moving forward we need to reinvent our spaces. Turning old factories into apartment buildings and small business hubs is a start. Tax breaks and PILOTs helps draw in new businesses. Creating additional green spaces out of vacant spaces will help bring residents into the downtown area for relaxation from their stressful days. I believe that we should continue to promote shopping locally to support our small businesses that play to the feel of nostalgia to fill this niche - make it “cool” again to shop locally. Downtown shops selling hand crafted / local goods, farmers markets, businesses that play to a retro feel, cultural activities and promotion of the arts, restaurants, office spaces that cater to new sectors of the workforce and young professionals, and tourist attractions that promote our rich history all should be capitalized on and significantly promoted.
This is very intentional planning and something that we have started to look at as a Council. The change needs to be cultural in how we promote our downtown business corridor. It also needs essential support from our residents to show that they too believe that it is worth restoring.
Covid took a heavy toll on Lockport and downtown is crumbling. After nearly two years of disrepair walking from one end of downtown to other is hazardous and driving is a nightmare. Infrastructure is what we are. It’s an integral part of the community, and it’s what we’re famous for. As a member of the Common Council I would pursue legislation that keeps city streets from flooding, keeps trees from knocking out power lines, and keeps visitors to downtown from parking in two-foot potholes.
I believe the wheels are already in motion for downtown Lockport to shine again. We have come so far from the days of vacant lots and devastation left over from Urban Renewal development. Our “Love Lockport” signage on Main Street has real meaning to it. I feel we are on the verge of something great.
However, in order to do this we must have another avenue to bring people to our great area to shop, eat and sightsee, etc. I feel the long proposed Upper Marina Project would help with making this possible.
I would much rather see efforts go into the West End Business District, the gateway to our city and its many attractions, and to the surrounding area of the canal. That would be the Upper Marina.
Maybe someday we could have concerts again that wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything.
The city should identify and build on existing assets. Identify the assets that offer the best opportunities for growth and develop strategies to support them ( i.e. the canal, ice skating rink, palace theater, local business).
We also as a city need to engage all members of the community to plan for the future, and engage residents, business owners, and other stakeholders/ investors to assist in the development of the city’s vision for the community’s future.
I do believe that with the support and encouragement we as a city could redevelopment, and make Lockport once again a vibrant and lustrous community for all to enjoy!
The City of Lockport continues to move in the right direction supporting our local small businesses downtown through tourism and the website. The main page of the City’s website provides a link to the Destination Lockport page that lists all the great local restaurants, lodging and unique shops. The Niagara Discovery Shuttle service brings many people to our community to explore our city and to help support our local businesses.
In order to continue development and support these businesses we should start to observe what other tourist based communities are currently doing. Many cities use QR codes to have a fast link to information using a smartphone. The codes can be placed on store fronts, tourist locations and on light posts. When visitors scan the code they are able to find the many amenities in the downtown area and experience the unique shops and restaurants. Providing free Wi-Fi in these tourist attractions would ensure the QR code connects the patrons. The history of Lockport draws in many people, but we should consider more main street festivals that help to show case our downtown area.
The local businesses should team up to create a “City Pass” that residents and visitors can use for discounts at our local businesses. Also consider doing a “weekend package” with maybe dinner, a show and an overnight stay! The Destination Lockport site could provide the information, unloading advertising costs to these small business owners.
We also want to leave our visitors with a good impression and draw our residents to the downtown area. Some improvements have been made regarding store fronts and the landscaping downtown, but could use a little more curb appeal enhancing the historic feel of Lockport. Small things such as lighting trees, upgrade landscaping, or adding sitting areas could make a large difference and a lasting impression.
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In the 3rd Ward, incumbent Alderman Mark Devine is unopposed for re-election.
Two other candidates on the November general election ballot, Working Families Party designees John R. Scarpinato and Sienna R. Marren, have told the Union-Sun & Journal that they did not intend to pursue election to a city office and are not campaigning.