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Agency to set bid price for former factory

The city's development agency will meet next week to plot its strategy for the former Harrison Radiator Division plant at Walnut and Washburn streets, after a judge allowed the city to foreclose on it.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said Thursday that the Greater Lockport Development Corp., headed by Mayor Michael W. Tucker, will hold a special meeting to set a minimum bid price for the foreclosure auction on what is now known as Commerce Square. The session had not been scheduled as of Thursday.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III ruled Wednesday that the city is free to foreclose on Lockport International Partners, the owners of the former factory. That company, headed by Rochester businessman Frank Spezio, owed the development agency $825,260 in principal on two loans, on which no payments have been made since March 2003.

Ottaviano said the total judgment against the Spezio firm, including interest and court costs, will be more than $900,000. He said the development agency can set a minimum bid anywhere between $1 and the total amount of the judgment.

Ottaviano said the development agency has to determine its strategy for the auction, likely to occur within 60 days. If it sets a high minimum, the city is more likely to end up keeping the complex and facing a need to sell or lease it. But a low minimum runs the risk that someone the city finds unsuitable might find it easier to buy the buildings.

Ottaviano said, however, that Commerce Square needs a new roof, estimated to cost $1 million. "It's going to have a huge impact on the marketability," he said.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the city will be the landlord and collect rent from about 18 small businesses, ranging from a day care center to a high-tech defense contractor, that are in the complex now. He added that there is no intention to evict any of the tenants.

But the mayor said he doesn't want to keep the building for long, although he would be willing to lease it to an operator, as the city did with four buildings it owns on Canal Street, the former Richmond Avenue.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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