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General Mills seeks use of city land; Buffalo wants to retain control

The City of Buffalo and General Mills are still in talks about transferring control of a small piece of publicly owned land near the waterfront, but a situation in which the company would buy the land appears to be off the table.

General Mills had been looking to purchase a dead-end section of Michigan Avenue from the city -- a potential site for a bridge that would connect downtown with the outer harbor -- but the options now being discussed would not transfer permanent ownership, the city's chief planner said last week.

The city and company are talking about something similar to an easement that would allow the company to use the land but let the city to take back control in the future, said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the city's Office of Strategic Planning.

While the foot of Michigan is no longer under consideration as a site for a bridge that would connect to the outer harbor, the site could be considered again decades down the road, Mehaffy said.

And that's why the city wants to preserve its rights there while trying to work with General Mills, which told the Planning Board in late January it wanted the roadway to better secure its property.

The city is "clearly looking to support General Mills," Mehaffy said, noting its importance as a local employer.

A spokeswoman for General Mills said the two sides have been talking about the company's interest in the land, which she described as "a very small section of road that currently bisects our property and as a result has been used for decades primarily in support of our operations."

Plans for a bridge to the outer harbor are being pursued by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which is looking at two sites: the foot of Main Street and from Erie Street.

Various studies have been completed, and some are under agency review, said spokeswoman Laura Magee.

The agency plans to finish the studies and select a location next year, Magee said.