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Buffalo urban renewal officials today approved the sale of an Exchange Street lot to businessman Oscar Rayford, making him the first African-American to privately develop a city renewal area, they said.

Rayford Enterprises plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot building at 281 Exchange St. to house a customer service facility for American Anglian Environmental Technologies, the operator of the city's water system.

Rayford will pay the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency $60,000 for the property but, under terms of the deal, will be entitled to reimbursements of up to the same amount for preparing the site, formerly owned by Conrail.

Tests show the site was filled in with lumber and other materials that will not support the weight of the new building. As a result, Rayford told urban renewal officials, the building must be constructed on caissons, which will cost more than $80,000.

Some officials questioned the sale terms, claiming the city renewal agency will end up giving the property to the developer, because preparation costs probably will exceed $60,000.

But Lewis J. Maulucci, the city's project manager, stressed that he agreed to the terms because the agency is obliged to transfer the site in a usable condition and because Rayford is not seeking any other city assistance.

In other action, agency officials approved more than $330,000 in grants and low-interest loans to help up to 75 first-time home buyers acquire and rehabilitate houses in target areas scattered throughout the city.

The money will be used to offer grants of up to $20,000 and low-interest loans of up to $10,000 for buyers of vacant or foreclosed houses owned by the city or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The effort, called the Home Ownership Promotion Program, primarily is designed to help low- and moderate-income home buyers, but in some cases income guidelines may be relaxed for some problem properties located outside the target areas, according to Jay B. Duderwick, president of Buffalo Neighborhood Revitalization Corp.

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