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Krog selected for Hamburg redevelopment ; 145-acre former Bethlehem Steel property to become commercial or industrial park

Prominent industrial and brownfields developer Krog Corp. has been selected by the Town of Hamburg to lead the redevelopment of a 145-acre former Bethlehem Steel property into a commercial or industrial park.

The Hamburg New York Land Development Corp. and Hamburg Industrial Development Agency named Orchard Park-based Krog as the designated developer for the sprawling land that straddles Bayview Road at Route 5.

The vacant property, known as the Lake Erie Industrial Park, is still owned by the town, through the Land Development Corp., but Krog now has exclusive rights to develop it, said Paul R. Neureuter, the firm's president.

"So we're working together with the Hamburg IDA to market the property in hopes that it'll be developed into an office or industrial park," he said.

However, officials don't expect to put shovels in the ground anytime soon. Preliminary plans call for a three-phase development of the property, beginning with the land along one side of Bayview and Route 5, where the infrastructure is already in place.

A back portion of that property would be next, followed by the rest of the property on the other side of Bayview.

But Krog and the town want to have users lined up before they start construction. "One of the problems with trying to develop the park is we're kind of open to everything," said Michael J. Bartlett, executive director of the Hamburg IDA. "If we had a single user that came in and needed half the property, we definitely would consider that."

Instead, he said, the project is likely to follow the path of Ravenwood North, another Hamburg industrial park located on the other side of the railroad tracks behind the Bayview property.

That 150-acre park opened up in the early 1990s and now has just 10 to 15 acres still available for development. Among its newest tenants is K Technologies, which recently moved in.

"So over 20 to 25 years, the park has pretty well been filled up," Bartlett said. "That's probably what we could expect here. But if somebody came along for 50 acres, we certainly wouldn't turn them down."

He said he wasn't aware of any immediate interest, but "in my business, you're only a phone call away from the start of something. You just don't know."

In the meantime, "if the money should suddenly pop up to put some infrastructure in place, we'd take advantage of it," Bartlett said, "but with the situation with the federal and especially the state government, there's not a lot of free money right now."

The parcel had been owned for decades by Bethlehem Steel, but the industrial giant never developed the mostly flat land, even though it's already zoned for heavy industrial use. After the demise of Bethlehem Steel, the land passed first to International Steel Group and then to ArcelorMittal.

Town officials had been trying to get Bethlehem Steel to put the property on the market since the early 1990s, but the company insisted on a single buyer and never wanted to break it up. A 5-acre parcel at Bayview and Route 5 was sold more than eight years ago and now houses the offices of Greater Woodlawn Federal Credit Union.

Finally, Town Supervisor Steven J. Walters and Bartlett drove to Cleveland to meet with ArcelorMittal's head of real estate in September 2009, leading to a deal that culminated in the town's $805,000 purchase of the property early this year. "It was a long, drawn-out process," Bartlett said.

The property is considered a "greenfield" because it was never developed. A formal environmental review also turned up no issues, although the property had previously been used by local police as a shooting range dating from the 1940s, so officials may have to cart away two to three truckloads of dirt from a berm, Bartlett said.

Also, the town's Conservation Advisory Board looked at the property and determined that there was no significant "growth" on it, allowing the town and Krog to clear the land. Bartlett said the town is also going through the process of "pre-permitting" the property, to speed up future development.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com