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Senecas make offer for DL&W rail terminal

The Seneca Nation of Indians has made a written offer to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to buy the DL&W rail terminal, which it would turn into its Buffalo casino.

Sources close to the deal also said the Seneca Gaming Corp. has made an offer on a pair of city-owned parking lots adjacent to the terminal at the foot of Main Street.

"There are now numbers out there, so the real negotiations can begin," the source said. "This is when things get real."

The amount of the offer for the DL&W was not divulged, but sources said it takes into account the value of the circa 1917 structure and the NFTA's need to continue using its ground floor as a garage and service center for its Metro Rail cars. The structure is assessed at $10.9 million.

The NFTA, which earlier confirmed it has been contacted by the Senecas regarding the DL&W site, met in executive session twice in the past week, most recently following its monthly board of commissioners meeting on Monday. NFTA executives declined to comment on the closed-door sessions, but authority sources confirmed both private meetings centered on the future of the terminal building.

The offer on the city-owned parking lots was made directly to the Buffalo Sabres, which holds a 50-year lease on the surface lots, which are used by HSBC Arena. Sabres officials declined to comment on Seneca interest in the lots.

Seneca officials maintained their silence on the casino siting process when asked about the offers Wednesday.

A number of private property owners have reported being contacted by real estate agents, including representatives of Buffalo's Gurney Becker & Bourne and Berlow real estate firms, in the past month.

Wally Peters of Jentsch & Co., a metal-fabricating business at 290 South Park Ave., said he was asked if he'd be interested in selling his business, but no offer was made. "I really don't know who they were representing or how serious they were," Peters said. "They did say they aren't interested in the building, just the land."

Business owners along South Park Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Perry Street have reported inquiries about selling their properties. The outlying parcels could figure into the Senecas' plans as tour bus parking lots and delivery staging areas.

Downtown real estate sources have said the Senecas are eyeing the expansive, upper floor of the two-story DL&W terminal to create a 120,000-square-foot gambling venue. The adjacent parking lots would provide space to construct parking ramps that could be connected to the casino site.

Under its gaming compact with the state, the Seneca Nation faces a Dec. 9 deadline to designate a city casino site.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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