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Large East Side eyesore bought with hopes for redevelopment

by chocieni
Tue, Aug 26th 2014 12:00 pm

 The transformation of a South Buffalo brownfield into a hub for clean energy manufacturing began when the city took a risk to purchase the land six years ago.

Mayor Byron W. Brown is hoping a similar transition will happen at a large site on the East Side.

An 11-acre former industrial property on East Delavan Avenue near Fillmore Avenue that has been underused and an eyesore for decades moved closer to being redeveloped Tuesday when the board of a city-affiliated development agency agreed to buy it.

Unlike RiverBend, the brownfield near the Buffalo River that was purchased by the state in order to attract two clean-energy firms, 537 E. Delavan Ave., sits in a dense neighborhood, and drew complaints for years.

"There are rodents that have come out of there," Brown said. "People who have been breaking into the place, stealing piping and other things out, there has been graffiti painted on it, so it's been a real eyesore property for a long time."

The board of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., of which Brown is chairman, voted to approve the purchase of 537 E. Delavan, the former site of Houdaille Industries and Vibratech, for $250,000, so it can be cleaned up and sold to another developer.

A closing is expected in the next two months. The site includes a building larger than 300,000 square feet.

BUDC officials hinted that there is an interested buyer, but did not elaborate.

Brown said he expected a commercial or industrial use to resume at the property once the corporation sells it. The news of other developments in the city have attracted more interest from out-of-town companies, but the city needs large-scale sites like East Delavan, he said.

The RiverBend site is in a brownfield opportunity area, a state designation that brings in economic benefits for clean up and development. The state cut the funding for the program as the city is trying to get a similar designation for East Side sites, including the former Houdaille Industries site. But other brownfield clean-up tax credits are available, and there is hope the state will restore the funding, said David A. Stebbins, vice president of BUDC.

The state purchased 184 acres in South Buffalo for solar panel manufacturer Solar City, solar panel manufacturer Silevo, which was acquired by Solar City, and LED-light manufacturer Soraa. Two separate transactions are expected to bring in $5.3 million for the land. BUDC purchased the land for $4.6 million in 2008.

The East Delavan property will require environmental cleanup, though there has been some cleanup under the guidance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since Vibratech ceased operations at the site in the early 1990s, it has been used most recently for commercial truck repair, and is owned by Salvage Properties Trust. Trustees are Danny G. Dunn and Jeremy G. Dunn.

The property is currently in housing court, said Permits and Inspections Commissioner James Comerford, who requested that until the property changes hands, the current owners be responsible for code violations.

Brown said he would seek funding from the state's Buffalo Billion initiative to help make it attractive to developers.

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