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Rescue planned for ex-Dunlop site ; $1 million from state to help fund work on Grand Island eyesore

A vacant Grand Island office building, once the headquarters of Dunlop Tire Corp., has deteriorated into an eyesore visible from the Niagara Thruway.

The run-down, graffiti-stained property is one of the first things southbound motorists glimpse on their right as they enter Grand Island on the expressway.

But the Long Road building finally is poised for a revival. JSJ Holdings LLC, the property's owner, plans to spend more than $2 million to restore it to marketable condition, under the name Gateway Center.

The Grand Island Town Board has approved a contract to reimburse JSJ with $1 million from a Restore New York grant administered by the Empire State Development Corp. JSJ will receive the funds once upgrades are made, said Gary Roesch, a Town Board member who has been active in efforts to revitalize the building.

JSJ acquired the building in 2002 for $600,000, according to county records. James Metz, a principal in JSJ and the owner of Beauty Pools in Lancaster, could not be reached to comment.

Buffalo-based Creative Structures Services is serving as general contractor for the project. Once approvals have been received, the company will start work on improvements, including removing spray-on asbestos from the interior, installing new window treatments and glass, removing graffiti and demolishing such components as decaying drywall, said David Pawlik, president of Creative Structures.

"Then it's a lot easier to market and promote," Pawlik said. Subsequent work this year will involve roof and utility improvements.

The roughly 73,000-square-foot building, which dates to the 1960s, had housed offices of Hooker Chemical & Plastics Corp. Dunlop took it over in the mid-1980s and moved out in 1993.

Suggestions for reusing the property have included a hotel, senior citizen apartments and a developer's corporate offices. Even the Grand Island School Board considered acquiring it years ago, before voters shot down the plan. Through it all, the building sat idle.

In April 2009, the town applied for a $2.1 million Restore New York grant to help rehabilitate the property, Roesch said. Six months later, Empire State Development said it would provide $1 million for the project.

Since then, Metz has had no success in moving forward with developers, Roesch said. After Empire State Development warned that the grant soon could expire, Metz decided to go forward with his current plan, Roesch said. The town will help submit documents for JSJ to obtain the Empire State Development funds.

Roesch said two things stand out about the building: It has become a detriment to Grand Island, but it has great potential, given its prominent location.

"It really should be a signature building for companies that want to locate in the region," he said.

Roesch said the revived building could foster more economic development on Grand Island, as could 144 acres of nearby, undeveloped land owned by Acquest Development that is zoned for light-industrial use.

He described rehabilitating the building as a promising start, saying, "We're really enthusiastic, and we've got our fingers crossed."

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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