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Office building project in Falls may receive aid from Niagara IDA

A professional office building to be constructed near the new City Courthouse in Niagara Falls may receive financial aid from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

However, IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said the project would be set up so that the city, the county and the school district receive full tax revenues, even though a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangement is being sought.

The IDA's Project Review Committee accepted Ay-Shay Enterprises' application for help with the $2 million, two-story building to be erected at 950 Cleveland Ave.

The company's owner, Winn Gilmore of Oakland, Calif., said the building, which also will house two retail stores, will offer space to professionals such as lawyers, doctors and realtors. Plans call for eight to 12 commercial spaces available for rent. The retail stores will be franchised food and office service businesses, Gilmore said.

IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma pointed out that the agency normally is barred from assisting retail projects but that when it approved a tax break for Ulrich City Centre in Lockport a couple of years ago, it used an exception to the retail ban because the project was in what was considered a "distressed area."

Gabriele and IDA Assistant Director Larry D. Witul said that this is exactly the angle being used for the Cleveland Avenue project.

With the courthouse about to begin construction, Sloma said, "I bet we're going to have more development there." He suggested that the IDA make a package for the whole neighborhood.

Gilmore, whose company already owns the land and who has received approval from the city and county planning boards for her project, said Niagara Falls would not be revived by depending on "heavy metals and the industries of yesteryear."

She said her 10,708-square-foot building will offer Wi-Fi Internet service for the surrounding area. She said that as many as 35 people might work there three years from now.

Her attorney, Morton H. Abramowitz, said he was "proud to be associated with the project." He said the site is clear except for a vacant house that will be torn down.

Gabriele said Ay-Shay is eligible for state Empire Zone assistance, which is how the taxing entities are protected.

In a normal PILOT deal with the IDA, the company pays only a fraction of the property tax bill that it normally would face, an amount that rises on a sliding scale until the PILOT expires.

But Gabriele said that in an Empire Zone situation, the company pays full property taxes to local governments and then is reimbursed by the state through an income tax credit. The IDA PILOT would not kick in unless there's a change in the Empire Zone program.

"If, for some reason, the state's Empire Zone benefits disappear, our PILOT is there as a parachute," Gabriele said.

Abramowitz said Ay-Shay would receive exemptions from mortgage recording taxes and would not have to pay sales taxes on building materials and equipment if the IDA approves the deal after a public hearing to be held next month.


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