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An aging mall in Amherst got some help Friday to make its vacant space more attractive to businesses looking to open call centers or other back-office operations.

The owners of the Century Mall on Sheridan Drive near Niagara Falls Boulevard, will save nearly $20,000 in sales taxes as they spend $600,000 gutting the interior of the building, due to tax breaks approved by the Amherst Industrial Development Agency. No tenants have committed to the space.

The agency also approved tax breaks to allow APV Projects Group, a process engineering solutions company based in the United Kingdom, to build its North American headquarters in Amherst. The project calls for retaining 65 jobs and creating 55 new jobs.

APV will build a 43,000-square-foot office on vacant land in CrossPoint Business Park on North French Road. The tax breaks will save the company $560,000 in property taxes during the next 15 years, and over $100,000 in sales tax. Even with the tax breaks, the company will pay nearly $1 million in property taxes during the next 15 years.

APV is also eligible for a $200,000 grant from Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm.

APV has offices in the City of Tonawanda, Chicago and Montreal. The company was considering relocating to one of those larger cities or the Carolinas.

While APV is new construction, the Century Mall is a redevelopment project.

The Century Mall represents about a quarter of the 400,000-square-foot shopping center on Sheridan Drive, beside the Bon-Ton. Excluding the Century Mall portion, the rest of the center is nearly full, except 20,000 square feet previously occupied by Kids "R" Us.

The Century Mall's owner, Northtown Inc., converted the retail space to small offices a few years ago and renamed that portion Northtown Business Centre. But besides the Erie County Department of Motor Vehicles, a Social Security office and two small tenants, those small offices have not attracted tenants. President Jonathan Luther said that a larger space with multiple purposes will be easier to rent.

The mall was built in 1968 and anchored by Kobacher's, a chain of stores that did not survive long after the mall opened.


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