Niagara Gazette

October 8, 2012

Sidewalk extensions getting kicked to the curb on Third

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Some of the sidewalk bump-outs on Third Street will soon be a thing of the past.

The sidewalk extensions were installed as part of the state agency USA Niagara Development Corp.’s streetscape project added space for businesses on the downtown street to use for patios. Part of a makeover meant to make Third Street more attractive to businesses, the bump-outs eliminated parking.

But the $3.7 million streetscape renovation, which was paid for mostly with casino revenues, left patrons searching for places to park.

Mayor Paul Dyster said that the Department of Public Works had some extra money left for road repair projects and decided to use the money to respond to requests from business owners on Third Street.

“The call for more parking from businesses was consistent,” Dyster said.

The bump-outs set to be removed are on opposite sides of the 400 block of Third Street between Niagara Street and Ferry Avenue.

“Because we don’t have casino revenue we’re not doing some of the mill and overlay work that we would do normally,” Dyster said. “We were able to do this in house.”

The job will take about three weeks to complete and will cost the city approximately $30,000, Dyster said.

“After having consulted with business people and USA Niagara we decided to go forward with this project,” Dyster said.

The mayor said that the removal of the two largest bump-outs is not an abandonment of the original plan, which was to make Third Street into a pedestrian-friendly business district, but rather an adjustment to make the area more business friendly.

“We’re trying to match up the streetscape to the businesses that have emerged,” he said.

The elimination of the bump-outs will create a total of 12 new parking spots.

The city and USA Niagara will continue to promote the street as a walkable, visually appealing business corridor.

“We’re not giving up on the idea that Third Street should be pedestrian friendly and we will continue to promote outdoor dining,” Dyster said.

Shawn Weber owns two buildings on Third Street with his business partners David and John Giusiana. The partners bought the building at 501 Third St., which holds their restaurant Wine on Third and 11 apartments, 12 years ago, before the streetscape renovations began.

Weber is glad to see the bump-outs go, as parking is sometimes and issue for his patrons on busy nights.

“If I have a busy night at the wine bar all the spots on the street are taken even though no other businesses are operating,” he said.

Weber said that the overall plan for the streetscape was great, but that USA Niagara did not follow through with the second part, which was to create more off street parking for the businesses that the renovations were meant to attract.

“The long-term viability of Third Street is really dependent on parking,” he said.

The Lotus Spa building, which sat empty on the 400 block of Third Street after police shut down a prostitution ring operating out of the business, was bought by the city, demolished to make way into a larger lot between Second and Third streets.

Weber thinks that the city should do the same with other obsolete buildings in the business district.

“Imagine if every store front was filled,” he said. “Where would everybody park?”

Chris Schoepflin, the president of USA Niagara, described the removal of the bump-outs as a tweak in the Third Street plan.

“If the majority of the people accrue to thinking that this is a good idea then the mayor is responding accordingly,” he said.

Even with the reduction in the bump-outs the 400 block of Third Street is still more walkable than it was before the streetscape renovation. The sidewalks were 4 feet wide and now they are being reduced from 12 feet to 8 feet wide.

“We’ll still have 100 percent more sidewalk than we used to,” Schoepflin said. “It seems like a reasonable thing to do.”

Dave Kinney, the director of the department of public works, said that the street will be closed down completely at times, but that his crews will try to keep one side of the street open when possible.

“We’re hoping that we won’t have to shut the whole street at night,” Kinney said. “We’re hoping at worst one side will be shut down.”

Kinney said that his department will reuse and reclaim as much of the brick and curb materials from the job as they can.

“The hardest part of the whole thing is taking out the curb,” he said.

The street scape work was performed by private contractors, and not the city, which could cause issues for city workers, Kinney said.

“We’re hoping we don’t run into any surprises,” he said.

Big Red Number $30K City's cost to remove sidewalk extensions on Third Street. The project will take six weeks.