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Council to vote on deal to fix canal buildings

Almost five years after the basic terms were worked out, the Common Council will vote Wednesday on a deal with Ben Kendig of Rochester to restore and manage four late-19th century buildings on the edge of the Erie Canal locks.

The plan gives Kendig a 40-year lease on the Canal Street block, formerly known as Richmond Avenue. Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said Friday he expects Kendig to attend Wednesday's meeting.

"It looks like this thing's going to get started, and I'm hopeful that everything goes well," Kendig said.

Community Development Director William J. Evert said the buildings are to be "tenant ready" by Dec. 31.

He said the last delay was caused by Kendig's reluctance to sign a deal with the city until the reconstruction of the street and site work was locked in. Evert said the city will sign a $941,000 contract for that work next week with Oakgrove Construction of Elma.

With the state Canal Corp. spending about $578,000 with Oakgrove to replace the safety railing along the locks in a more decorative style than the current yellow steel pipes, Kendig was ready to move ahead.

Ottaviano said the city will give Kendig the $600,000 interest-free loan he requested in 2001, when he was the only developer to respond to the city's bid proposal for the restoration of the buildings.

In exchange, Kendig's newly formed company, Richlock LLC, will be in charge of setting rents for the buildings and lining up tenants. Ottaviano said Kendig will keep two-thirds of the rents, while the city will receive one-third. The city's share will be considered Kendig's loan repayment until the $600,000 is paid off.

Besides the loan, Kendig is to invest $239,000. Ottaviano said the city owes Kendig about $46,000 on a development consulting deal he signed with former Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan and will pay that to Kendig to begin to take care of any cost overruns above Kendig's $839,000 estimate for renovation of the building interiors.

Kendig isn't allowed to sell his interest in the site without the city's approval, Ottaviano said. "In five years, if he doesn't have any tenants, we can get rid of him," the attorney added. Actually, the threshold Kendig must meet is leasing 10 percent of the 25,000 square feet available in the four stone buildings.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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