Southtowns project gives new meaning to ‘getting in on the ground floor’

Business

EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WIVB)–A restoration project in the Village of East Aurora is giving a fresh look to an old bank building, but it is stirring up controversy over who can use it. Visitors in wheelchairs to the new event center called, “The Bank,” could be limited to the ground floor for lack of an elevator.

Developer Todd Stine has spent about a million dollars restoring the old Bank of East Aurora building as an event center for hosting formal events such as wedding receptions, and it will include a bed and breakfast.

Remodeling on the Main Street landmark started earlier this year, and everything seemed to be going fine until the work hit a speed bump.

The original plans for The Bank that was submitted to East Aurora’s board of trustees included an elevator for the first floor and a rooftop lounge, which received the board’s wholehearted approval.

Then the estimates came in for constructing an elevator that would be attached to the building’s exterior which Stine said would be cost prohibitive–between $300,000 and $500,000, and he asked for a change.

Trustee Paul Porter, who has a form of muscular dystrophy and travels in a wheelchair, was the only board member to vote against the change, but it turns out, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows a waiver, if the cost of accessibility exceeds 20 percent of the total project.

In Porter’s opinion limiting access to the top floor could be bad for business, “You are going to say if someone has a wedding here they can’t invite people in wheelchairs, if the wedding is going to be on the rooftop?”

Porter points out, even though the ADA allows the project to waive the accessibility requirement, the village could change its building code to make elevators mandatory for remodeling or reuse projects. East Aurora just revised its code last year.

Now that the site plan is being revamped, a public hearing is set for next month. If work continues as planned, The Bank could open by May first.

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