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The number of construction projects in the Town of Tonawanda fell between 1999 and 2000, and the value of new construction was off by about $1.4 million, according to building records.

The town issued 894 building permits for residential and commercial construction in 2000, 13 percent fewer than the 1,030 issued in 1999, the records show.

The estimated value of those projects fell from $21.9 million in 1999 to $20.5 million last year.

The 2000 permit numbers are in line with the average annual total in the past half-decade, said Michael P. Hazen, the supervising building inspector.

The town issued 1,058 permits in 1998, he said; in 1997, there were 961, and in 1996, there were 985.

"Once people deal with us, they love dealing with us -- our services, our taxes," Hazen said. "If it fits, they'll build it here."

In 2000, the town issued 337 building permits for commercial construction, at a value of nearly $11 million, and 557 residential permits, at a value of $9.6 million.

The largest permit issued for a construction project in the town last year was for a $2.5 million office building at Praxair's East Park Drive campus, Hazen said.

The town issued permits for several new commercial buildings along Niagara Falls Boulevard -- a $900,000 Montana's Cookhouse family restaurant, a $400,000 Pier 1 Imports and a $280,000 Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

But most of the largest commercial projects on the boulevard are built on the Amherst side, because their lots are larger and deeper, Hazen said. But he said he expects 2001 will be a boom year for construction in the town.

Praxair received permits in January for two multimillion-dollar construction projects.

The company is building a $5 million central plant to heat and cool its entire network of buildings, said site manager Dennis A. Conroy.

Most recently, the town on Jan. 24 issued Praxair a building permit for $1.2 million worth of renovations to laboratory and office space on Building 52's second floor.

Praxair is building a "state-of-the-art" facility for research into electronic gases, Conroy said.

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