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AGENCY TO PICK DEVELOPER FOR INNER HARBOR

The agency overseeing revitalization efforts in Buffalo's Inner Harbor hopes to select a developer for the project in about three weeks.

Meanwhile, board members of Development Downtown Inc. authorized staffers Tuesday to negotiate memorandums of understanding with four public entities that own waterfront land, in hopes of positioning the agency as the central clearinghouse for Inner Harbor development.

The arrangement would allow the agency to sub-lease land to private redevelopers, negotiate all agreements and perform other key roles.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, one of the major landowners along the shoreline, has indicated that any memorandum of understanding with the agency is subject to approval by NFTA commissioners. The Authority has told waterfront planners that it wants to maintain some flexibility until there is a firm proposal for the property.

The state, city and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency also own shoreline property. The state has yet to take a position on the agency's request for a memorandum of understanding and officials said it is unlikely that such an agreement will be finalized next month.

But waterfront planners said they remain optimistic that final details can be hammered out and that the agency will be in the position to recommend a developer or developers by mid-February.

Three plans have been submitted with price tags that range from $40 million to up to $150 million. The project will involve $27 million in state, federal and local funding which has already been identified.

The most ambitious redevelopment plan has been submitted by the family that owns Adelphia Cable and the Buffalo Sabres. The Rigas family has proposed spending up to $150 million to create what the Masiello administration is calling a "family-oriented urban entertainment" hub on sites that include Memorial Auditorium, the Donovan State Office Building, the Webster Block and several parcels beneath the Skyway.

The other submissions are a $100 million proposal by a team formed by Benderson Development Co. of Buffalo and the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and a $40 million plan submitted by NewRock Associates, a trio of downstate developers.

In other business, Development Downtown Inc. officials said Tuesday that they are proceeding with negotiations with the owner of the former Republic Steel site in South Buffalo in hopes of redeveloping hundreds of acres of land for new industries. Officials negotiating with LTV, a Cleveland company that owns the site off South Park Avenue, said they hope to conclude talks within a month.

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