A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in the Village of Lancaster Thursday morning, marking the beginning of construction to restore a main thoroughfare that was severed decades ago to make way for a big box plaza and parking space. Those lifting the golden shovels hail the event as the start of a plan discussed for decades.
The primary reconstruction will extend West Main Street from its current terminus to Aurora Street. Additionally, roundabouts will be constructed in the intersections of Central and Pleasant Avenues and West Pleasant Avenue and North Aurora Street. New pedestrian amenities and landscaping will also be included.
Village of Lancaster Mayor William Schroeder paid tribute to those who worked more recently to secure funding, but also to those who set the wheels in motion for the project as many as 50 years ago.
"It was a long, arduous process, but that's why we're here today," he said. "It had to have a beginning and they started off wonderfully. And they made it happen. Fifty years later, we get to stand here for you and break ground."
That big box plaza is gone. All that's left are rows and rows of empty parking spaces. Once West Main Street is reconnected to Aurora Street, developer Tom Sweeney plans to build mixed-use buildings along the roadway.
"Working collaboratively with the Village of Lancaster’s board, the smart growth community grant for the West Main Street extension is the key to revitalizing the core of Lancaster," he said in a prepared statement. "The entire community has been working hard for years and to see this dream come true is a very exciting time."
Shop owners already operating along West Main Street expressed excitement for the expansion. Crystal Newman, owner of Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe, says what pleases her about Newman's plans is that they will emphasize, as she described it, locally-owned and unique businesses.
"I've been here almost five years and I've seen a lot of new businesses pop up since then, and it really does have an effect on my business," she said. "We get a lot of overflow customers, and I think once the street is done, and the unique shops that are going to be here, it's really going to make us competitive and it's going to make Lancaster a destination."
The cost of the project is estimated at $8.5 million . Funding sources include grants, the Buffalo Billion Smart Growth Initiative and funds from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Schroeder anticipates the road work could be completed by the end of the year.