The area near Tesla Inc.'s solar plant is showing new signs of life with the opening of a Tim Hortons restaurant.
It's the first milestone in a planned transformation of roughly 24 acres of brownfields across from the factory on South Park Avenue.
The cafe and bake shop is in a new mixed-use new building across the street from the plant and has additional retail and office space open for lease. It's owned by Danforth, a local mechanical contractor with operations nearby.
Danforth bought the property in 2015. It had planned to expand its own operations onto the site, but saw opportunity to lease to suppliers and other companies supporting Tesla, which bought Solar City last year. Plans for its own expansion are on hold while the company looks for tenants of an industrial park planned for the space.
The 24 acre-parcel stretches from the Buffalo River to South Park Avenue. The property under the new building has been remediated, according to Danforth spokesman Phil Pantano, but the remaining brownfields will not be addressed until tenants for the industrial park are secured.
The property wraps around Parker's, a maker of British pies that took over a former tomato growhouse there in 2011. The company recently changed its name from the English Pork Pie Co. The company has also since opened Parker's Proper Fish and Chips, a "chippy" restaurant on the property.
Pyramid broker Paul Boser said the property was bought because of its strategic proximity to Tesla, but only about half of the interest expressed in the site has come from companies doing business with the plant, he said. The other half is coming from local companies.
"It's exciting to see momentum building in that area," Boser said. "People are looking at these old industrial hubs and investing in the city again."
Tesla's partner, Panasonic, earlier this year said it had started producing solar modules at the South Park plant. The factory has more than 100 workers on site, according to the companies.
Tesla executives have said it expects to increase production "considerably" next year.