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Buffalo mayor to announce who will build city grocery store

After months of anticipation, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown on Friday will announce the identity of the firm selected to redevelop a city-owned parking lot on Ellicott Street into a new urban grocery store, parking ramp, annex for Erie Community College, and either apartments or condominiums.

Brown will name the winning developer for the grocery project at 201 Ellicott St. as part of his State of the City address at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The city first released a request-for-proposals May 8, but the nature of the project – at first targeting just a grocery, parking and apartments – soon changed after Erie Community College expressed interest in being involved because it needed more space. So officials changed their focus to seek qualified developers, instead of a specific project, because the scope had become more complicated.

The solicitations were sent out to 400 developers and investors, including 90 local firms, 285 national entities, 50 retailers, almost 70 minority developers and almost 50 women-owned developers. No specific developers have been identified yet as having submitted bids by the July 29 deadline, although Tops Markets said last year it would be interested in another downtown store.

The developer selected will have to develop a specific, detailed proposal for the site that would encompass all of the city’s goals, including incorporating the two-year community college’s needs.

The 2.5-acre lot, which currently has 300 surface parking spaces, occupies the block bounded by Ellicott, Oak, Eagle and Clinton streets, adjacent to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Greyhound bus terminal, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and the Hotel@the Lafayette. It is within walking distance of Coca-Cola Field, Lafayette Square and Main Street.

Brown has called for developers to put up more than 2,000 new apartment units in the downtown area by 2018, citing the increasing excitement about Buffalo, the addition of 5,000 jobs to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the growing demand to live and work downtown. He and other city officials see an urban grocery at that location as key to making downtown more vibrant and attractive to new residents, by fulfilling one of their central needs.

Already, about 57,000 people work downtown, while at least 14,000 live within a mile of the site, ranging from the East Side to Marine Drive and the waterfront. All are seen as potential customers of a downtown store.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com