Lakewood Residents Want Chautauqua Avenue Renovations

LAKEWOOD – According to some Lakewood residents, Chautauqua Avenue needs a renovation.

Discussion on the state of Chautauqua Avenue was revisited during the Busti Advisory Committee’s recent meeting.

Members of the audience – some of whom own businesses on Chautauqua Avenue – kept commenting that perhaps instead of focusing on Busti’s new town offices location in the old Tordella’s Surfaces building, more attention should be given to fixing up Chautauqua Avenue and the vacant buildings on the strip.

“The Tordella building, obviously there were a lot of people against it, some people were for it, I don’t know what the ratio was. But at this point, they are moved into it. In my opinion, we’ve got to focus on the vacancies sitting here and the current issues right now,” said Michelle Turner, a real estate agent from Century 21 Turner Brokers. “You’ve got to find a way to make Chautauqua Avenue look pretty and the Tordella building, in my opinion, is not an eyesore. There are many more eyesores going up and down this street that I think we should really pay more attention to.”

Barclay Wellman, owner of Wellman Bros. Green Farm, commented in the seven years he has been on Chautauqua Avenue, he never has seen so many vacancies. David Bargar, Busti Advisory Committee member, agreed the lax code enforcement caused a problem on the strip and asked what sort of businesses do people want to see on Chautauqua Avenue.

The response came back to professional offices. In addition to not competing with the other retail businesses already on the avenue, businesses like dentists and hair stylists generate foot traffic, they said. Tom Turner, a real estate agent from Century 21 Turner Brokers, suggested turning Chautauqua Avenue into a two-family residential district. Part of this plan involved transforming the Anthony C. Caprino building, which needs repair, into a high-rise environmental complex for senior citizens.

Questions regarding the Lakewood-Busti Recreational Center also surfaced at the meeting. Due to a clause in the contract, the quonset hut can only be used as a recreational center or reverted back to green space. However, Bea Solomonson believes the quonset hut should be preserved.

“National Trust for Historic Preservation person here – quonset huts are an endangered species. They aren’t really sure how many of them are left,” she said. “As of last year, there were only three quonset huts in the country remaining that were on the National Trust for Historic Preservation status. The problem was, they were on an airfield, and a tornado came through and ripped them apart.”

During World War II, the military built quonset huts across America for supplies, soldiers, hospitals – whatever the military needed them to function as. After World War II ended, towns across America repurposed the quonset huts as movie theaters, recreational centers and homes.

The council brought up even if they did know the quonset hut’s original purpose and floor plan prior to reconstruction – they don’t – it wouldn’t matter due to the contract clause. The other suggestion focused on making the recreational center into a green space where the community could meet up for 5K runs or farmer’s markets. Some community members pushed back on this suggestion pointing out not only did it not generate money, but the quonset hut is the only public building currently that can support a large crowd if need be.