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Make Webb Building deal work Rehabilitating downtown structures can only help region's vital core

The historic Webb Building in downtown Buffalo finally stands a real chance of being saved, if the developer and city officials agree upon a plan. Here's hoping everything lines up.

Developer Rocco Termini wants to purchase the 118-year-old Webb Building at 90-92 Pearl St. and turn it into a 30-unit apartment building with first-floor commercial space. Its proximity to downtown offices, HSBC Arena and the planned Erie Community College and Bass Pro projects makes it a fine fit.

The project could potentially turn a building that has official city landmark status into a downtown success. The $9.5 million plan hinges on a mix of historic preservation and urban market tax credits, along with tax incremental financing.

It's that last piece, incremental financing, that's keeping this project hanging in the balance. The building is in an Empire Zone, meaning the state will reimburse the owner for taxes. The plan is also to take advantage of historic tax credits and new market tax credits. All the pieces cover the gap to do the project, which will cost $9.5 million -- $1.5 million just to stabilize the building and another $8 million to do the build out.

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency agreed to the plan. Now the city has to approve the financing. The city has nothing to lose, since Termini could invoke a tax program that allows a mixed-use building to avoid paying taxes for 10 years. The developer can use the Empire Zone benefits as a means of creating gap financing.

The developer should bring a viable plan to the table and work with city officials to revitalize the Webb building. Otherwise, the building will remain as is. And that's unacceptable.

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