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Tax breaks eyed for S. Transit strip

Looking for ways to tempt retailers into vacant stores on the South Transit Road commercial strip, the Town of Lockport is considering sales tax incentives.

David R. Kinyon, the town economic development coordinator, proposed at last week's Industrial Development Agency meeting that the town should offer to waive sales taxes on materials used to build, renovate, or furnish stores.

The proposal takes the form of an Enhancement Zone, which would include the territory within 500 feet of the center of South Transit Road.

Kinyon said it's similar to the Opportunity Zones the Niagara County IDA offers in the downtown areas of the county's three cities. However, that program also includes 100 percent property tax exemptions for the first five years of a project in an area officially designated as depressed.

The town can't offer that, but it can make an effort on sales taxes.

"I think it's a good idea," said Supervisor Marc R. Smith, who said the IDA can institute the program without Town Board approval.

"We're constantly reviewing our programs to make sure we're competitive with what other municipalities are doing," Smith said.

"We still have challenges in filling vacant buildings on Transit Road," Kinyon said.

IDA Chairman Thomas Sy said, "One of the bigger challenges will be in the old Walmart building, once that transfer takes place."

Supervisor Marc R. Smith said construction of the Walmart supercenter on the former Lockport Mall site is expected to start in October, with the new store to open in October 2012.

Smith said he's talking frequently with the owners of the current Walmart, Developers Diversified Realty of Cleveland.

"It's still a little too far out for them to be gathering tenants," he said.

Smith and Kinyon agreed another sore point has been what is now called the Big Lots Plaza. It was built more than 20 years ago to host a Zayre's department store, which is long defunct.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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