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Despite cleanup, N. Tonawanda brownfield site still goes begging

A former brownfield site near the Niagara River primed for redevelopment has sat environmentally clean but untouched by new business for three years.

That's not exactly what city officials had in mind when they started investigating contamination there in the late 1990s.

A total of $3.4 million in city and state funding was spent to remediate contamination left at the former Oliver Street site of Buffalo Bolt and Roblin Steel.

While other light industrial development moves forward on previously undeveloped land in nearby towns such as Wheatfield and Amherst, there's a renewed push to see something happen on the 23-acre parcel.

"You did it, and nothing's going on," City Engineer Dale W. Marshall said of the cleanup and its uneventful aftermath.

Mayor Lawrence V. Soos said redevelopment at the former industrial site has been an issue since he ran for alderman before he was elected mayor in November 2005.

Soos has spoken with commercial developers in the region to gauge their interest. While he would not disclose details of his contacts, he said at least one of the firms told him they already had been looking at the site.

Ideally, the site will become a business and industrial park, said James B. Sullivan, director of Lumber City Development Corp.

Officials already have a name for it -- Buffalo Bolt Industrial Park.

Lumber City representatives have described their vision for the site in a set of design guidelines and regulations developed by a hired contractor.

Development Corp. officials have responded to various inquiries over the years, some of which didn't really fit their vision, they said.

One such proposal basically called for a pole barn to be built, said Chuck Bell, a project coordinator at Lumber City.

Bell said the design plan was important because he feared the land could get tied up by speculators, or could be put to a hodgepodge of uses that don't fit an overall vision.

The site had been targeted as a new location for Aquasol Corp., but the company has since built on Thompson Street.

Sullivan, Lumber City's executive director, said he believes issuing a request for proposals would be the best way to move forward with development. That way, developers would have to follow guidelines and would be given time restrictions to complete their work, he said.

In order to move forward, the city has been looking for funding for infrastructure.

The total price tag for roads, as well as electrical, water and sewer infrastructure would be at least $1 million, and probably more in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, Sullivan said.

The city came close to receiving federal funding for infrastructure work in June 2006. The U.S. House of Representatives approved an allocation of $930,000, but the bid was never approved.

The city did receive a $50,000 state grant in 2004 to refurbish a fence on the property.

Should a large firm locate in the proposed industrial park, Ironton Street would need to be widened to provide adequate access, said Douglas P. Taylor, president of Lumber City Development Corp.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said the department is awaiting receipt of final documentation related to an environmental easement for the site.

Once that is received, a certificate will be issued signifying the official completion of the project, said Megan Gollwitzer.

For Marshall, the city engineer, any development may help spur other development along Oliver Street.

"I wish something would happen," Marshall said. "I don't know what more the city can do."


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