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Business First: Three Buffalo projects gain ECIDA incentives

Wed, Apr 22nd 2015 02:00 pm


Three Buffalo projects gain ECIDA incentives

Apr 22, 2015, 2:47pm EDT UPDATED: Apr 22, 2015, 4:28pm EDT

Buffalo Business First Reporter



A trio of residential-based developments, two of which are in downtown Buffalo and the other in a fast-emerging part of the city, received a series of incentives that are critical for each to advance.

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks Ellicott Development's plans to renovate a century-old former General Electric Co. warehouse where Busti Avenue and Niagara Street intersect along Sinatra & Co.'s proposal to renovate the former Phoenix Brewery building on Ellicott and Virginia streets and Paul Kolkmeyer's concept of transforming the former Stanton Building at 251 Main St. All are anchored by market rate apartments.

Collectively the three projects represent nearly $23 million in private sector investment while bringing 84 more apartments into the market.

"It shows the private sector still has a lot of confidence in Buffalo," said Mayor Byron Brown, who is also an ECIDA director. "Each will help stimulate more residential and commercial development in their respective neighborhoods."

Ellicott Development wants to turn the upper floors of the Busti Avenue building in 18 apartments while allowing for commercial projects to take hold on its lower two floors. Work will start this June.

The project is one of several planned along a stretch of Niagara Street, beginning at the Peace Bridge and heading into the Black Rock neighborhood.

While other development plans were considered for the building, Ellicott Development's is the first to move past the initial proposal stage.

"It hits on a lot of the development aspects we hope will happen along Niagara Street," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, Buffalo Niagara Partnership president and CEO and an ECIDA director.

Largely vacant for more than a decade, Sinatra & Co. plan on investing more than $7.5 million bringing the Phoenix Brewery building back as a market rate apartment complex that caters to both downtown workers and those employed at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The building will be anchored by 30 apartments, which should be tenant-ready by early next year.

As part of the project, Sinatra & Co. are donating 10 percent of the building's profits to the Say Yes for Education initiative.

"This project is adding new housing options in an area that could use more options," said Erie County Legislator Edward Rath III, also an ECIDA director.

Only one ECIDA director, former interim chairman Chris Johnston, voted against the incentives. Johnston and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also voted against incentives being offered to Kolkmeyer's project.

Johnston felt Sinatra's and Kolkmeyer's project would advance with or without the incentives.

Poloncarz offered the same sentiments about Kolkmeyer's development plans.

"We should let the market bear the costs," Poloncarz said of the Kolkmeyer project.

Kolkmeyer and his partners, Andrew Shaevel and Ronald Tonski, are investing $48 million on buying and renovating five downtown Buffalo buildings that had been owned by prominent attorney David Sweet.

The Stanton Building will house 36 apartments and some corporate offices.

Poloncarz said the building still had potential as a commercial office center but others dispute that notion.

Downtown Buffalo has more than 2.4 million square feet of available office space.

"It would 40 or 50 years for it all to get absorbed," Gallagher-Cohen said.

Demand for downtown residential units, however, remains strong.

Converting older buildings into residential units is part of deliberate economic development strategy by Brown, who wants at least 2,000 more apartments, condos and townhouses to come on line in downtown during the next three years.

"This project is part of that strategy," Gallagher-Cohen said.

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