Editor's note: this is the first of a two-part series on city of Dunkirk development efforts.
As another building season draws to a close Dunkirk's harborfront, while not seeing much visible progress, it is still the primary area of development in the city.
City officials are still cautiously optimistic about current development efforts. The recent announcement of a potential project that would result in a U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife station in the area between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons is one reason for that optimism.
One reason for caution is the progress of the Chadwick Bay Marina rebuild project. Marina owners Jeff Gambino and Mike Pucci, doing business as Chadwick Bay Marina Holding Inc., have been under some scrutiny from city officials.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said recently there was plenty of discussion over the summer with marina officials but not much lately. He was asked if he was satisfied with the progress made by the owners.
"Gambino and Pucci have done a lot to clean up the marina. There has been some, say back and forth, about the progress of the intended bar/restaurant that Mr. Gambino's often discussed," Dolce replied. "Let's just say we've had some back-and-forth letters as to the progress of that potential project."
In May, the owners released their three-phase plans for the site - including dock work and general cleanup, which have been mostly completed. A new gas service and pumpout operation were part of the plan, along with the most ambitious part, the building of an indoor bar and restaurant.
Dolce was asked if he thought the project was still moving forward.
"We shall see," he replied.
The Boardwalk Market borders the marina and has been a topic at many city meetings. The mayor was asked if he was satisfied with the market's operations this summer.
"Yes, but there's always kinks to work out. We definitely would like to see, and we continue to encourage, businesses to stay open longer," he replied. "We had some just not be there for a couple weeks and that's extremely frustrating when you're in season and people expect you there and you're just gone, or you're gone early. There's a lot of stuff that we're living with, contracts that were signed that were longer than others and we're living with those. We're continuing to work with the Boardwalk tenants. ... There's room for improvement so we're here, we're willing to work."
A project that was never completed, the Clarion Hotel's proposed splash park, is an unfinished matter financially as well. Dolce was asked if the money borrowed for the project has been paid back.
"There's a lot up in the air with that. We have people internally looking through the past records to try and figure out how much we're owed," he replied. "When is that money owed? What is the exact number? There's a lot surrounding that particular loan."
The loan came from both federal Housing and Urban Development and city monies. Dolce said research on how to proceed was continuing. He was asked if the Clarion owners know they owe the money.
"We have not had any conversations," he replied. "I would say there are documents that were signed between the DLDC previously and the Clarion, so I would think they would know they borrowed money."
Between Memorial Park and Demetri's Restaurant are two harborfront properties that are ticketed for development: the former Stefan's Marina and the property the DLDC purchased in 2012 for $525,000 that formerly housed the Bertges auto dealership.
The Stefan property is now Chadwick Bay Marina West and is owned by Chadwick Bay Marina Holding Inc. Work there has been pretty much put on hold until more progress is made on Chadwick Bay Marina East adjacent to the city pier.
The Bertges property has seen Krog Corp. withdraw as the preferred developer. Dolce was asked what is next for that property. He said he and Development Director Steve Neratko have been looking at the options.
"Steve is preparing the necessary paperwork for the DLDC as far as the brownfield cleanup goes, and basically we're continuing to explore our options there," Dolce stated. "The city does intend to continue to make the payments. We do have the clearance to use (Community Development Block Grant) funds to pay down the DLDC's mortgage on the property. I want the public to be aware that with CDBG funding, and using that to pay the note on this property, limits the potential reuse of the property. They have to be more of the public service variety. There are options within there, but right now we're in the very early stages. We still have to do the cleanup and that sort of thing.
"The city will still be looking for a developer, you could see that property going back out to a (request for proposal)."
Coming Monday: Development needs in Dunkirk beyond harborfront. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org