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City to buy former Republic Steel brownfields site $4.6 million price tag OK'd for 185 acres

The City of Buffalo plans to spend $4.6 million to buy a formerly contaminated industrial property in South Buffalo and is trying to attract commercial investment to the site, city officials announced Friday.

The city is buying the 185-acre former Republic Steel property from Steelfields, the partnership that has spent $19 million over the past five years cleaning the brownfield site.

Mayor Byron W. Brown, other city officials and Steelfields representatives said acquiring the site will boost the city's economic development efforts.

"It opens the way for greater private-sector investment and job creation in the City of Buffalo," Brown said.

The Steelfields site that the city plans to acquire was an inactive hazardous-waste site used previously by Republic Steel and Donner-Hanna Coke.

The property is about the size of an 18-hole golf course and is bordered by South Park Avenue and the Buffalo River.

It sits next to Hickory Woods, the contaminated subdivision whose residents have fought for years to win a buyout plan to allow them to move.

Steelfields is a partnership of developers who conducted one of the most extensive local brownfield cleanups after taking over the former Republic Steel property.

The roughly $19 million spent on the cleanup was to come from insurers for previous owners LTV Steel and Hanna Furnace.

Steelfields followed state Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines in cleaning the site, officials said, but the company is awaiting final approval from the agency.

"This has been the largest volunteer cleanup project ever undertaken in New York State," said Gary Smith, a Steelfields principal. "But this is just the beginning for this site."

A growing number of companies have moved into industrial parks in Buffalo or expressed interest in doing so, Brown said, so this purchase fills a need for such space in the city.

"There has been a tremendous sense of urgency to set up shovel-ready sites," Brown said.

HydroAir Components already has opened an $8.5 million manufacturing facility on a 31-acre parcel adjacent to the 185 acres that the city plans to buy.

HydroAir employs 114 workers at the site and has plans to add 200 jobs, according to the city.

Another industrial park, the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, is located just southwest of the Steelfields property in the old Union Ship Canal area.

The companies Cobey, CertainTeed, Sonwil Industries and Philips & Burns have invested or plan to invest about $39 million in the Lakeside park, according to city figures.

Friday, Brown and Smith signed an agreement stating the city's intention to buy the Steelfields property. Infrastructure such as sewer and water connections would be built to suit the needs of future tenants.

The purchase still must be approved by the Common Council and the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.


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