Tonawanda News — Life returned this year to a long-vacant marina on River Road formerly housing the Niagara River Yacht Club, following $1.25 million in work and years of behind-the-scenes work.
While there’s still more planned for a portion of the marina, as the city seeks to raise another $750,000 to dredge two additional bays and install new docking, a club house at the site has been leased to former North Tonawanda resident Carol Tallichet, who launched the Lumberjacks Patio Grill in July. The restaurant will operate seasonally.
The project began in Mayor Rob Ortt’s first term, when he used about $100,000 acquired by his predecessor to conduct a feasibility study on the site, a move widely criticized as a waste of money, with the funds initially earmarked to refurbish the marina that sat vacant since 2005.
But in the end, Ortt said, the study paved the way for acquiring $1 million in federal and state funds.
In fact, about half of the $2 million required to complete the marina project as a whole came through grant money. Federal infrastructure funding sent $686,919 to the city, while another $300,000 came through the Niagara River Greenway Commission. The city bonded $361,350.
The money was put toward rebuilding a marina retaining wall, adding boats slips and docking, the construction of a public restroom and paving a new parking lot. Some electrical work was conducted by National Grid, while Tallichet spent an undisclosed amount to refurbish the clubhouse, including a new, wrap-around deck on the river.
More recently, with a $208,000 grant obtained last week through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, the next phase of the project is coming closer to reality.
For now, 20 boats may dock in the area around the restaurant during the summer months, while the first years of the restaurant’s five-year lease with a 20-year option was deemed a success, officials said.
The city will maintain control of the property and collect a 5 percent share in fees related to boats docking there, while a new public restroom was completed in the hopes of attracting “transient” boaters, who may wish to remain in the city for an extended stay.
The start of the final phase of the project has yet to be determined.
THE LIST SO FAR • No. 10: Pavilion opens in Niawanda Park • No. 9: Carrousel museum gets a boost • No. 8: NT marina given new life