The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has staked its claim on the idle Trico windshield wiper plant, which borders the south end of a 100-acre medical research and treatment corridor just north of downtown Buffalo.
The nonprofit corporation's $13.75 million bid for the two-building Trico complex, located along Goodell and Ellicott streets, also includes the former M. Wile &. Co. apparel plant at 77 Goodell St. The offer was revealed in federal Bankruptcy Court filings with the Western District Court of Pennsylvania.
The former M. Wile plant was converted into office space by Erie, Pa., developer Stephen B. McGarvey, who died in 2005.
The medical campus offer is structured as a $4.75 million bid for the Trico buildings and the property's 5.3-acre parking lot, with a $9 million value assigned to the M. Wile site and its parking lot.
Matthew K. Enstice, executive director of the medical research and treatment campus, said the main objective is to give the deteriorating Trico complex a future.
"We really don't know what we're going to do with the site. It's not part of our master plan," Enstice said. "But we felt it was incumbent upon us to keep it from becoming a blight on this wonderful section of the city."
"We don't want to sit back and let this become the next AM&A's," he added, referring to the long-vacant flagship department store whose poor condition and uncertain future is a black mark on Buffalo's Main Street core.
The filing of the reorganization plan, which is predicated in large part on the medical campus bid, is a big step forward for the Buffalo properties, said Guy C. Fustine, the lawyer representing the McGarvey interests.
"We are really pleased to have the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as the purchaser," Fustine said. "We are confident this sale would be in the best interest of the creditors and the Buffalo community. It's a win-win in that respect."
The potential medical campus takeover of the McGarvey properties also got high marks from Richard M. Tobe, Buffalo's commissioner of economic development, permits and inspections.
"The city was prepared to acquire these properties at the October in rem auction because we are very concerned about their condition and their strategic location," Tobe said. "They are the physical link between the medical corridor and downtown Buffalo."
The commissioner called the medical campus corporation a "terrific" property owner with the vision to give them "an appropriate future."
The bankruptcy filings are related to businesses controlled by McGarvey, who had planned to reinvent the Trico site as luxury apartments and upscale offices but failed to get the project off the ground.
McGarvey's Century Centre LP and Stephen B. McGarvey LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October after efforts to sell off the Buffalo properties failed to pass muster with creditors. The filing also prevented the high-profile sites from going on the auction block at the city's tax-foreclosure auction last fall.
A bankruptcy judge will have the final say over who will own the properties after weighing whether the $13.75 million sale will satisfy the dozens of creditors whose claims total more than $22 million.
Other would-be buyers will have an opportunity to make a higher offer when the reorganization plan is aired during an expected September court hearing. At that time, bidders will likely be able to bid for the Trico and M. Wile properties as a single package or as separate sites.
Tobe said the city's preference is to have all the addresses purchased as a group.
"We don't want to see any of these strategic sites left behind," he said. "We will be watching the outcome very closely and will be prepared to exercise strict code enforcement on all these properties."
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, Altair Management, an Erie property management firm, had fielded six bids for the properties. Altair's Charles J. Peters said he believes that several of those bidders, as well as new parties, will come forward to take another look.
"The medical campus is certainly the most interested, and they have demonstrated that with their strong offer, but we know there are others who will consider making a bid," Peters said.
Peters and Fustine, who worked closely with McGarvey as he struggled to realize his dreams for the Buffalo properties, said they are excited about turning the sites over to someone with the ability to redevelop them.
"It might not be Steve's exact dreams being fulfilled," Peters said, "but he'd be thrilled to see those buildings thriving again."
McGarvey, a quadriplegic because of a childhood accident, burst onto the development scene in Buffalo in 1999, when he acquired the sprawling, 700,000-square-foot Trico complex for $2.1 million. However, a combination of health and financial problems, as well as the mammoth proportions of the project, left his redevelopment plans in limbo.
He had better luck with the neighboring M. Wile plant. It was converted into office space and is now 80 percent occupied.
Time has not been kind to the Trico site. The six-story building has incurred substantial deterioration because of roof leaks, while the four-story building has declined because of lack of maintenance.