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NFTA seeks warehouse tenants

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is racheting up efforts to find new industrial tenants for its Port of Buffalo warehouses.

The authority, which is about to lose the single-largest tenant at its Terminal A and B buildings along Fuhrmann Boulevard on Buffalo's outer harbor, is using everything from billboards to brochures to advertise its facilities.

Cheektowaga-based Sonwil Distribution, which currently leases 356,000 square feet of space at the site, is in the process of relocating to its new warehouse in the nearby Lakeside Commerce Park.

Sonwil currently occupies 261,000 square feet in the two-story, 548,000-square-foot Terminal A, and is the sole tenant of the 95,000-square-foot Terminal B.

When Sonwil departs next month, the NFTA's biggest tenant in the Fuhrmann Boulevard complex will be NanoDynamics, which occupies 46,000 square feet.

"It's the loss of a major tenant, but we're actively marketing the space every way we can think of," said Ruth Keating, the NFTA's real estate manager.

One of most eye-catching strategies is a billboard along Route 5, overlooking the site.

"It's something new for us, but it is attracting attention," said David M. Gregory, the NFTA's general counsel. "It's a giant ad that makes a direct physical link to what its marketing."

The NFTA has gotten several inquiries about the space where callers cite the billboard as piquing their interest.

The transportation authority leases out than 1.3 million-square-feet of commercial space at facilities it owns on the Buffalo waterfront and adjacent to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga.

While the authority has a track record of health tenant rosters at the various sites, it is simultaneously facing high vacancy rates at both locations. The NFTA is also seeking tenants for the former Sierra Research Corp. building it owns at 485 Cayuga Road in Cheektowaga.

Corporate downsizing by Sierra, now known as DRS Corp., has caused it to shrink its footprint on Cayuga Road from 330,000 square feet by two-thirds.

"We've generally done well with leasing, but losing two major tenants simultaneously has left us with a lot of space to fill at a time when its not easy to develop and manage real estate," Gregory said.

The combined loss of rent revenue totals $156,580 per month, and comes at a time when the NFTA is also contemplating a 25-cent hike in Metro Bus and Rail fares to bridge a predicted $3 million transit budget gap.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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