Niagara Gazette — Dick Soluri spent 16 years trying to lure more visitors to Lewiston.
On his watch as mayor of the little village, Center Street blossomed like the many flowers lovingly placed by the garden club in planters and on light posts. His administration’s relentless grant-seeking found millions in state and federal funds which helped to add charm to the village streetscape and, slowly over the years, it seemed that every restaurant, shop and upscale boutique benefitted by the resulting economic growth. The waterfront area was spiffed up as well, with a new fish cleaning facility for sport fisherman, and a giant sculpture that identifies the region as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The flurry of government-funded upgrades spurred private investment as well, according to Soluri, and local businesspeople took some daring leaps of faith, creating new projects such as the building of the Barton Hill Hotel, and renovating others, such as the rail car expansion of The Silo waterfront restaurant, and other improvements at many village businesses.
“Everybody bought in and that’s the point,” Soluri said of the revitalization during his time in office, which he believes inspired smaller versions of the same type in more northern municipalities, including Wilson and Olcott.
It was hard work. But, when he left office a few years ago, his village was hosting thousands of new visitors who came for festivals, shopping, dining and an opportunity to enjoy the extraordinary gorge that cradles the Niagara River like two giant rocky hands.
The last thing the former mayor wants to see now is somebody messing with all that hard-won success. And, he is a little tired of the long-standing debate about moving or removing the parkway that allows all those Lewiston visitors easy access to the village he still calls home.