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Termini seeks tax breaks for technology business incubator

Developer Rocco Termini is seeking tax breaks for his fourth real estate development project in a North Buffalo neighborhood, as he works to create a new technology business incubator and beer-bottling facility in a former industrial plant.

Termini, through his R&M Leasing LLC, wants to convert the former Linde Air Manufacturing facility at 155 Chandler St. into a mixed-use complex called the Pierce-Arrow Business Park.

The incubator would operate as part of the state's Start-Up NY economic development program, designed to encourage entrepreneurial activity in Western New York. It would feature commercial space for four tenants – a manufacturing company, software developer, distillery and brewery – and two residential apartments.

The developer is asking the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to support the $10 million project, by providing more than $160,000 in tax incentives. Specifically, that would save him $75,695 in mortgage recording taxes and $87,500 in sales taxes.

And to justify that assistance, he says, the companies in the new business hub would create 75 new jobs over the next three years, with an average salary of more than $50,000. "By providing low-cost, cool space, we are providing growth for start-up companies," Termini wrote in his ECIDA application.

A public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at 95 Perry St. Comments will be accepted by the ECIDA through March 21.

This is Termini's fourth project in what he calls the Pierce-Arrow neighborhood, an old manufacturing area along Elmwood just north of the Scajaquada Creek and Expressway. He already has converted the former FWS Warehouse at 1738 Elmwood into Foundry Lofts and Suites, and turned two other nearby buildings – the Arco Lofts across the street at 1807 Elmwood and the Houk Lofts around the corner at 316 Grote St. – into apartment complexes.

And the former Pierce-Arrow Administration Building at 1695 Elmwood, which dominates the area, is targeted for a different mixed-use redevelopment project under the ownership of New York City-based Read Property Group and the direction of its local representative and former owner, Joseph Hecht.

Termini bought the 110-year-old brick manufacturing and processing building for $591,000, with the aim of renovating the vacant 80,000-square-foot building, which sits on 1.97 acres between Grant Street and Elmwood Avenue, into a blend of uses. It will include 59,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 19,000 square feet for research and development. The project would also include two apartments totaling 2,000 square feet.

ENRG would occupy 31,000 square feet for manufacturing. The firm has been in research and development for a decade, and just raised $2.5 million in its first round of funding, as it seeks to begin production of a gas-permeable ceramic material that is half the thickness of a strand of hair.

Startup software firm Utilant, which specializes in programming for international property and casualty insurance companies, will lease 30,000 square feet. Its primary products right now are an automated loss-control program and a diagramming tool called Rapid Sketch, which insurers can use to quickly and easily draw accurate floor plan layouts for residential and commercial properties.

Black Bird Cidery, which will take up another 6,000 square feet, is a Lockport distiller and cider-maker that owns its own orchards. The company is seeking to expand into Buffalo, and its largest customer is Wegmans.

And Thin Man Brewery, which was started nine months ago, will lease 10,000 square feet, as it expands to make canned beer throughout the state, to be distributed by T.S. Sheehan.

The project also will include a parking lot on an adjacent paved parcel at 157 Chandler, and an interior courtyard with "seasonal amenities."

The cost of the project includes $8 million in renovation and $2 million in "soft costs," including professional fees. The work will be financed by $2.46 million in equity, $3.93 million in bank loans and $7.26 million in federal and state historic tax credits and state brownfield tax credits.

The project already has been approved by the city Planning Board. Termini hopes to start work by April, with completion by November.

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