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Less that three weeks after abruptly ending all negotiations and discussion concerning new office space in Buffalo for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the federal government is back in the market.

However, advertisements requesting proposals from prospective property owners/managers include one big change from past announcements: The delineated space no longer includes Buffalo suburbs, but is confined to downtown.

"I'm surprised that the GSA (General Services Administration) moved so quickly to again solicit proposals," said Ronald W. Coan, Erie County Industrial Development Agency executive director.

Coan and his board of directors will play a major role in the FBI project because there is little doubt that most, if not all, potential lessors will call on the agency for assistance in the way of sales and property tax abatements.

The agency, in fact, has been embroiled in lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and numerous discussions regarding the last FBI proposal for the last year.

Getting the GSA to again advertise for proposals -- and getting the delineated area to include only downtown -- was considered crucial to Mayor Masiello. He lobbied President Clinton via a letter early in March.

"I'm just ecstatic that the president, the GSA and the FBI decided that the FBI will locate downtown," Masiello said. "We're fighting to save the city and it would have sent a horrendous message to the people of this city had the FBI left downtown for the suburbs."

The GSA request for proposals means more discussion for Coan and his board as they wrestle over whether the ECIDA should be involved in the FBI project or any development project in which a governmental entity is a major tenant.

The agency had revised its policy last year regarding such projects, but which projects should be included in the development "pipeline" and whether bond inducement extensions should be granted became very large points of contention. A special meeting will be called in May to discuss the FBI situation.

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