Records lounge to anchor new-look Niagara Street block

Nov. 28—NIAGARA FALLS — In development circles it is known as the historic Tugby-Lennon block.

Many long-time residents in the City of Niagara Falls recognize it as the block of Niagara Street where the Arterial Lounge once served drinks and the Press Box restaurant offered up its famous salads and Pittsburghers.

While the block — with the exception of Players Sports Bar and Grill at the corner of Fourth Street — has been dormant for many years now, a local developer and officials from the city and a state-run redevelopment agency offered concrete signs of renewal on Tuesday.

Representatives from the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. joined developer Sam Savarino, owner of Savarino Companies, in celebrating the completion of a years-in-the-making $3.5 million restoration involving three mixed-use, three-story buildings on the Tugby Lennon block, located at 320-324 Niagara St.

In total, the project covers 12,531 square feet of renovated space, including interior and facade improvements. The project creates 4,177 square feet of First-floor commercial and retail space, with part of the space already committed to a new tenant — a vinyl record store and listening lounge called Daredevil Records. The store, which allows customers to purchase vintage records and also stay and listen to music on cassette and record players while enjoying beer, wine and other refreshments, will be located inside the renovated space at 324 Niagara St.

For many years, the space was occupied by the Press Box restaurant, a popular local eatery that closed in 2004.

Savarino does not yet have tenants for the other two renovated properties located at 320 and 322 Niagara St. Company officials said both spaces have been renovated and are "move-in ready" once tenants have been secured.

In addition, the project involved the renovation of 10 apartments on the second and third floors of the buildings owned by Savarino.

State officials and representatives from Savarino Companies, the project's developer, noted that the buildings represent an important part of the city's history, dating back to the late-19th and early 20th centuries.

"We pursued this project because we share a vision with the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County and Empire State Development of a charming, mixed-use, walkable downtown that enhances the tourism experience and improves quality of life for Niagara Falls residents," said Savarino Companies Vice President of Development Courtney Samuels-Cox.

The USAN Board awarded a $145,000 Niagara Economic Development Fund grant to Savarino for the Tugby-Lennon project. The project also received federal and state historic tax credits, a $155,000 Niagara County Industrial Development Agency tourism grant, a $100,000 National Grid grant and a $40,000 NFC Development Corporation grant.

Anthony Vilardo, president of USA Niagara, a state agency that oversees development projects in downtown Niagara Falls, said the project is an example of the state's ongoing efforts to create a more vibrant downtown for visitors and residents.

"These buildings are among the few surviving structures of the dense, mixed-use commercial-residential environment that once characterized Niagara Street," Vilardo said.

Mayor Robert Restaino said adding market-rate apartments and a new tenant in Daredevil Records on Niagara Street contribute to the continued progress that is being made to redevelop the city's downtown district.

"This is the growth in our commercial corridor that is vital to our downtown," Restaino said.