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AM&A'S PLAN IN LIMBO AS DEADLINE APPROACHES

With a purchase contract set to expire on Sunday, the future of the former Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co. department store building on Main Street in downtown Buffalo remains in limbo.

Uniland Development Co. of Amherst, which has proposed buying and demolishing the sprawling retail complex to make way for a $40 million, eight-story office building, has yet to work out a deal regarding the participation of various government agencies in the project.

Under discussion is a scenario where the Erie County Industrial Development Agency would acquire the site, with financial help from the state, and then offer it to Uniland and the rest of the development community through a "request for proposals" process.

ECIDA Executive Director Charles Webb said he's hopeful his agency will be able to work out an agreement with the Empire State Development Corp. soon.

"Now that we're past the election, I think we'll get a fairly quick decision from the state on our request for a $3 million loan to purchase the property," Webb said. "While there hasn't been any outward movement toward resolution, we are working to get the process on track to have an RFP on the street shortly into the new year."

In addition to securing money to buy the site, the ECIDA also hopes to tap into funds originally set aside for the never-built Adelphia Communications operations center to assist with redevelopment of the site.

"We've not been made aware of ECIDA's time frame, but look forward to reviewing the request for proposals when it is issued," said Uniland spokesman Tom Widzinski

Uniland originally had proposed buying the vacant department store directly from Buffalo businessman Richard Taylor, with hopes of securing $11 million in economic development aid to defray demolition and site-preparation costs. While it has received three extensions on its purchase contract with Taylor, Uniland has agreed to transfer purchase rights to the ECIDA.

Since unveiling its vision for the 377 Main St. site in February, Uniland has said repeatedly that it needs to move as quickly as possible to satisfy the needs of a prospective tenant. The unidentified tenant would potentially occupy as much as 250,000 square feet of the 350,000-square-foot proposed building.

"We're aware Uniland's timetable is ticking toward the midnight hour, but we think we can move the RFP process fast enough to keep their interest alive," Webb said.

Taylor said he's willing to be "flexible" on the sale contract as long as local and state economic development representatives are working toward a plan to fulfill Uniland's purchase promise.

"I don't want this to drag on forever, but I will remain flexible as long as the parties are working in good faith to get a deal done," Taylor said.

As state and local economic development agencies have been working behind the scenes on a strategy to spark redevelopment of the prime downtown site, preservationists have weighed in on saving the multi-building retail complex from the wrecker's ball.

It's expected the state Office of Historic Preservation will play a role in crafting a request for proposals that seeks alternative ideas for bringing new life to the dormant complex without tearing it down.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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