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Delay for Buffalo Forge purchase

Unanswered environmental questions have caused a Buffalo development agency to slow its plans to acquire the former Buffalo Forge property.

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. was scheduled to close a deal with current owner, Howden Group, to buy the property, located at 490 Broadway, later this month. The agency, which signed an agreement with Howden to buy the 12-acre industrial site for $295,000, wants to create a "shovel-ready" venue for future reuse.

David Stebbins, the agency's vice president, said the agency has asked for a 90-day extension on the purchase contract so it can investigate the potential costs of remediating the site to prepare it for redevelopment.

"It was a foundry site for decades, so we knew there was some residual contamination. What we didn't know was how extensive that contamination is," Stebbins said.

The site's soil contains "black sand," a byproduct of the foundry process that contains semivolatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

"While these materials don't pose a health-and-safety danger for those living near the site, depending on how it is redeveloped, a complete excavation might be required," Stebbins said.

While reinforcing the site's existing soil cap for light industrial or other commercial use will cost less than $1 million, the price tag for a complete removal of the materials could top $4 million, according to Stebbins.

"Depending how it's redeveloped, it may or may not qualify for brownfields clean-up programs," he said. "We need more time to look at various scenarios and what programs might apply."

He also said no final decision has been made as to whether the agency or the site's end user would handle any needed clean-up.

Last summer the development agency floated general plans to reuse the site as a high-tech commercial venue for firms tied to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The property was previously eyed for housing and commercial uses.

Stebbins said the agency might take a "more global" approach in redeveloping the site, broadening the focus to include several other idle, city-owned properties along Broadway, between Jefferson Avenue and Sycamore Street.

Founded in 1877, Buffalo Forge was considered one of the nation's "Big Three" blacksmith equipment manufacturers. Over the years, it evolved into a maker of air-handling gear. Ampco-Pittsburgh Co. bought the business in 1981, selling to Howden in 1993.

In 2006, Howden razed the sprawling plant complex, which dated back which covered some eight acres, and the site was cleared and "capped."

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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