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Business/Economy

Decades after devastating fire, Village of Lancaster neighborhood is finally reconnected

West Main extension completed in Village of Lancaster
Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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A new extension of W. Main Street in the Village of Lancaster reconnects a district devastated by fire 60 years ago but not fully restored

Roughly 60 years after fire swept through a street in its historic district, the Village of Lancaster is celebrating completion of work to extend West Main Street, which allows the shopping neighborhood to one day grow back in full.

A ceremonial ribbon was cut Thursday morning to celebrate completion of a project that extends the roadway, provides bike and pedestrian friendly paths, and is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

Among those present for the ceremony from state government were Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Senator Patrick Gallivan and State Assemblymember Monica Wallace.

“This is all part of our comeback,” Hochul said. “It was many years in the making, but it coincides with our post-COVID comeback, when we can bring back downtown to let people know that there's life and vitality and activities, and people are going out to the restaurants or strolling the streets.”

The state provided $2.5 million through the Smart Growth Initiative program, included within the Cuomo Administration’s Buffalo Billion. It’s included in an overall $8.5 million project which includes improvements to Cayuga Creek Park, and the introduction of two roundabouts. Work on West Main Street, which is now open to two-way traffic, also includes sidewalks, on-street parking, light poles, landscape amenities such as planters and benches, and pedestrian crossings.

The 1960s fire which tore through the neighborhood resulted in W. Main being a segment fo decades. Through the project, the roadway now extends all the way to Aurora Street.

Mayor Lynne Ruda offered praise for the businesses which already existed in the neighborhood leading up to the project, noting the difficulties they faced when construction began, closing off much of their customer traffic flow.

“The unsung heroes of today are the merchants,” she said. “They're the ones who lived through the construction, they lived through the hardships. Not only of COVID, but then with us taking down the street, having sidewalks that were torn up, and they really were our greatest cheerleaders through this entire project. They were able to take difficult moments and put such a positive spin on it through their social media, through their advocacy with their customers. I hope this is everything that you've dreamed up, and I hope it brings you even more success.”

Surviving former mayors of the Village of Lancaster joined Ruda to celebrate the ribbon-cutting. Also present were four surviving firefighters who took on the flames 60 years ago.

Work could be seen along W. Main, with a skeletal frame for future buildings erected. Wallace, in her remarks, looked forward to further development in the neighborhood.

Where there was once a pothole parking lot and vacant storefronts, we now have a thriving commercial district with lively local businesses,” she said. “Even despite COVID, we've seen openings of bakeries and boutiques, a new butcher shop, we've had new art festivals and new eateries. The extension of what West Main Street is, is not only going to further this resurgence, it is going to be the spark that ignites the explosion.”