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Niagara County IDA OKs tax break for $20M North Tonawanda housing project

WHEATFIELD - The developers of a $20 million apartment and retail project received the go-ahead from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency Wednesday.

The IDA board voted 7-1 in favor of a 10-year tax break for the Rock One Development LLC project, being built on the site of the former Tonawanda Iron Works at 600 River Road, North Tonawanda.

North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, an IDA board member, voted for the project and said, "They're ready to go."

The project, called Rivers Edge, includes 100 housing units - 72 apartments and 28 townhomes.

Also, a pair of 3,000-square-foot retail buildings would be constructed along the road, and that led to a "no" vote from IDA member Michael W. McNally.

"I'm not inclined to vote yes for apartments with a retail component," McNally said. "I think the cost-benefit ratio was too low."

The IDA staff estimates that the incentives, including reduced property taxes, a mortgage tax exemption and a 10-year exemption from paying sales tax on building materials and furnishings, would save Rock One $3.9 million over the course of the decade. The company would make a total of $1.9 million in payments in lieu of taxes to the county, city and North Tonawanda School District over the 10-year period.

According to Rock One's IDA application, it would invest $2.1 million of its own money and borrow $17.9 million from a bank.

The site has been vacant for decades. Rock One, based on Clarence and owned by Lucian D. Visone Jr., the owner of Visone Co. Site Development, spent more than $1 million on a 2 1/2-year state-supervised brownfield cleanup of the former industrial site.

Pappas said the project will renew public access to part of the Niagara River waterfront and will be located within walking distance of Gratwick-Riverside Park.

Also Wednesday, the IDA board received an application from Briarwood Manor, an assisted-living facility on Lincoln Avenue in Lockport, which seeks a 15-year tax break for a $3 million expansion that will include a 20-bed memory care unit. A public hearing will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 1 in Lockport City Hall, with the IDA board expected to vote on the project Feb. 8.

The unit would be targeted at Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income recipients, company vice president Mark C. Ferreri told the board.

Briarwood Manor, which has 160 beds, will save an estimated $930,000 from the property, sales and mortgage tax breaks, while paying about half that much in lieu of taxes during the 15 years.

The state Health Department already has approved $1 million in grants toward the project's construction and operation. The facility will turn 20 semiprivate rooms into private rooms and shift 20 beds into the memory care unit, so the total number of beds will remain at 160.

The business will add nine to 11 new full-jobs with salaries from $26,000 to $36,000, Ferreri said. They will include several care aides, two licensed practical nurses and an activity director.



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