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Lockport hires firm to evaluate options for former Harrison plant

The city has hired an engineering firm to report on how much it would cost to continue to operate the former Harrison Radiator Division plant, to renovate it or to tear it down.

Friday, the Commerce Square committee of Greater Lockport Development Corp., the city's development agency, awarded a $36,500 contract to Clinton Brown, a Buffalo firm, to deliver a full report.

Commerce Square is the name applied by a former owner to the five-building, 473,000-square-foot complex at Walnut and Washburn streets. It was built in 1914 as a factory for Harrison Radiator. It now contains about 20 small businesses, but most of the complex is vacant.

The development agency acquired the property last summer by foreclosing on Lockport International Partners, the former owners, who failed to repay about $1 million in loans issued by the development corporation.

The agency created a new entity, 210 Walnut LLC, to hold title. Like the agency itself, 210 Walnut is headed by Mayor Michael W. Tucker.

Community Development Director William J. Evert said that Clinton Brown is to hand in its wide-ranging report on Commerce Square by late March.

"They're going to look into any potential environmental situations over there," Evert said. "They're going to give us redevelopment options."

The report is also to include an estimate of the "carrying costs" for one year of operating the plant as it is now, and for a year's expenses if it were vacant. There are also to be cost estimates for renovations and full or partial demolition.

Clinton Brown also will assess the condition of the plant's roofs, windows, floors, sprinkler systems, and heating and air conditioning units.

"We're exploring all options. As soon as we have this report, we'll decide," Evert said.
The city sought a state grant last fall to pay for demolishing the complex, but the application was turned down in Albany.

The agency was going to evict all the businesses by Dec. 1 because it did not want to pay for heating the building, but it relented, extending the deadline to May 1 while imposing a utility surcharge on the tenants. Also, an Erie County storage company rented space in Commerce Square for the winter, improving the cash flow.

Asked if the city will carry out evictions May 1, Tucker said, "I'm willing to be flexible on that as long as we don't incur a lot of costs. . . . I'm not looking to make money but if it can be self-sustaining, we'll be willing to keep it open."

What the city really would like to do is sell the complex, but nothing seems to be happening. Dan Dudek, a carpenter who has a shop in the building, said in September that he was trying to put together a purchase offer with other tenants.

Tucker said he has not heard a word from Dudek since late September. He and Evert both said that no other potential buyers have approached them. Dudek did not return a call seeking comment.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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