Lyndonville native making progress with downtown revitalization project on Main Street

Photos by Tom Rivers: Robert Smith, owner of the Webber Building on Main Street in Lyndonville, is pleased with a redone façade to reflect how the building originally looked. Smith last week removed a wooden covering that had been in front of the building for about 18 months while contractors worked on the building.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2020 at 9:22 am

Webber Building should open next spring as hotel and café

LYNDONVILLE – For 18 months there were big boards in front of the Webber Building at 29 South Main St.

Contractors led by Mike Preston & Son Construction in Lyndonville were behind the scenes at work, transforming the façade.

The construction workers needed to rebuild the storefront, putting in new windows, window frames, three doors and rebuilding the façade. (Ralph E. Ewald Contractor of Ransomville constructed the doors and window sashes.)

Preston gutted the building and put in new framing, floors and stairs in place for a site that will be a boutique hotel with six rooms on the second floor and a café with retail space on the first floor.

This winter contractors will put in plumbing, HVAC, drywall and the interior furnishings.

Smith owns the three buildings next to the Webber Building. They will also see a transformation in the two years with the building next to Webber opening in 2021.

Robert Smith, a Lyndonville native who now lives in California, is leading the transformation of four buildings on Main Street. The Webber site will be the first to open, likely in spring.

“It’s beautiful,” Mayor John Belson said Friday at the site. “We’re really proud of what he’s trying to do.”

Smith is transforming four buildings, including the former Pennysaver Market site at the corner. The full effort will take about two more years to complete, Smith said.

The upstairs of the four buildings will offer hotel rooms and other residential options. The first floors will have retail with co-ops, a selection from the Niagara Wine Trail, locally grown produce, “a mini general store concept,” Smith said.

Pictured from left include Robert Smith, Lyndonville Mayor John Belson, Village Trustee Dareen Wilson, Laura Belson, Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wolfe and Smith’s brother Daryl Smith and his wife Anne Smith.

Smith, who worked 36 years as a financial advisor, sees potential in small-town Lyndonville. He wants to help his home town, and he also thinks the project is a good investment.

“We have to think outside the box because the Big Box (stores) have destroyed Small Town America,” he said. “We believe we can make Lyndonville a destination.”

His late mother, Barbara, ran a restaurant – Barb’s Lynd Lounge – on Main Street in one of the buildings he now owns. He remembers the hustle and bustle on Main Street when he was a kid.

He thinks the small towns are making a comeback, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People are realizing what the small towns have,” he said.

He sees a need for places to stay in Lyndonville with White Birch hosting many weddings and events on Route 63. There are also fishermen and many others who come to the community, including drivers for the Amish and Mennonite communities.

People will book their rooms online and there will be a local hotel manager.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Here is how the building looked in 2018 before the construction started.

Smith wanted to unveil the storefront last week to show the community there has been significant progress on the Webber Building.

Smith owns about 18,000 square feet of space in buildings that used to be a restaurant, super market, ice cream shop and other thriving businesses. The sites are vacant now and many of the windows are boarded up.

Smith is funded the project largely on his own. He was awarded a $490,000 matching state grant last December to help with the renovation of 29 South Main Street, a mixed-use anchor project in the village’s downtown.

‘We have to think outside the box because the Big Box (stores) have destroyed Small Town America. We believe we can make Lyndonville a destination.’ – Robert Smith

The renovations will replace windows so they aren’t mismatched, and make other façade improvements, including new steps and doors. The Pennysaver Building will get a new roof and the interiors will be upgraded and modernized.

Smith travels from Palm Springs to Lyndonville to see family and friends, and check on the Main Street project. He was joined on Friday be his brother Daryl Smith and his wife Anne.

Belson believes the project will spur more pride and investment in the community.

“This is a quaint little community with a lot of tradition,” Belson said. “And we do have people who are looking for a place to stay around here and right now there isn’t a place to stay.”

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