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NY State agrees to buy all of RiverBend site

by chocieni
Tue, Jul 29th 2014 08:00 am

 In an effort to fast track the development of the RiverBend property, the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. agreed to sell the entire property — all 188 acres — to the state agency credited with forming Albany's successful and highly touted nanoscience and research complex.


BUDC directors, Tuesday afternoon, agreed to sell slightly more than 96 acres of reclaimed, former brownfield land at the Buffalo Hi-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend to the Fort Schuyler Management Corp. for $2.8 million, or $29,043 per acre. That price is about $1,000 more per acre than Fort Schuyler paid BUDC for 88 acres at RiverBend. That deal closed last week.


Presumably most — if not all —- of the 96 acres will be devoted to the massive SolarCity plant and research center that's being eyed for RiverBend. SolarCity is expected to employ more than 1,000 people as it produces and does research on cutting-edge solar-based technology.


The project is being developed in companion with Soraa, a Cailfornia-based LED specialist. Together the two projects will anchor the RiverBend property.


"This is a great, great deal for this community," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, BUDC chairman. "The terms were very favorable to the city, state and the public."


The deal comes a few months after Elon Musk's Solar City acquired Silevo this spring. Silevo, which is also based in California, and Soraa were announced last fall, with great fanfare. New York has offered almost $225 million in incentives, mostly through the Buffalo Billion allocation made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the projects.


While the incentives are pricey, the pay off is Buffalo serving as western New York state high-tech, green-energy hub and the promise of more than 1,300 jobs being created initially.


"It's bigger, so it's going to be more everything," Cuomo said Monday during a Buffalo visit. "More funding. Bigger footprint. It's an evolution from the agreement we had. It's still ongoing, but it is on a positive track."


The 96 acres Fort Schuyler is acquiring will handle Solar City's immediate needs. The exact amount of square footage and scope of the project is still being determined, but state officials expect construction to start this fall.


Fort Schuyler will be closing on the deal this summer. The land is located in South Buffalo off South Park Avenue, at the former home of Republic Steel Corp.


Under the terms of the pact, Fort Schuyler will own both the Solar City and Silevo complexes but the respective companies will be responsible for creating the new innovation hub in Buffalo.

"This deal was contemplated right after the initial purchase," Brown said.


Besides creating the new jobs and private sector investment, which could top $1.5 billion, Brown received assurances that an emphasis will be made on hiring minority and women-owned businesses during the construction phase and that mostly local residents, those within a 75-mile range of Buffalo, are hired and they are paid a prevailing wage. Minority and women hiring for both companies will also be emphasized, Brown added.


"The community benefits go beyond just Buffalo," he said. "They benefit the entire region."

Even with the Solar City and Soraa deals, there may be some available acreage at RiverBend. If not, there is land available at the neighboring Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park off Tifft Street.


"People want to be located near this now," said Brendan Mehaffy, Buffalo's economic development chief.

From a development perspective, the transformation of RiverBend from an industrial wasteland to a thriving, shovel-ready destination bodes well, said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, Buffalo Niagara Partnership president and CEO.


"It keeps the momentum moving forward in a very aggressive way," Gallagher-Cohen said.

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