By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — The owner of a Lockport cave and underground boat tour company plans to build a new $104,000 visitor center.
The Hydraulic Race Co., which offers a 70-minute guided tour through a series of Erie Canal locks constructed in 1838, has asked the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for help in building a 1,136-square-foot visitor's center at 5 Gooding St.
The Cave Tour's ticket operations have been housed in rented space on Pine Street in the city of Lockport for years. During a meeting of the NCIDA's board of directors on Wednesday, company President Clarence Burkwit said the new center will allow his firm to better serve its customers by putting the hub of the company's operation within its "tour loop." In addition, he said, the new location would offer increased visibility within the community while positioning the Hydraulic Race Co. to take full advantage of the upcoming Flight of Five Erie Canal locks restoration project which is scheduled to begin in June.
"What we want to do is reposition ourself for the future," Burkwit said.
The estimated cost of the project is listed at $104,300. Company officials estimate that it will result in the creation of five new, full-time jobs.
The company has applied for property, sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions through the NCIDA's Opportunity Zone Program, which offers incentives to commercial, retail and tourism-related projects located in the county's three cities.
NCIDA officials estimate the Hydraulic Race Co. would realize $20,200 in property tax exemptions for existing assessment and improvements during the proposed five-year period as well as $5,000 in sales tax exemptions on construction costs and furnishings.
The estimated annual real property taxes to be paid under the PILOT would be $4,700. Agency officials estimate that the project would offer a $172,100 value to the community, including the jobs to be created, added sales tax and an additional $116,000 in "economic activity" it would bring.
The application is subject to final approval by the NCIDA's board which is expected to bring it up for a vote following a public hearing that has been scheduled for 3:45 p.m., March 5 at the Lockport municipal building.