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NFTA extends deadline for Gracious Living’s purchase of waterfront site

The purchase deadline for a Toronto-area company seeking to create as many as 250 new jobs on the Buffalo waterfront will be extended again by the property’s current owner – the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority – this time for an additional 60 days.

NFTA Chairman Howard A. Zemsky, who has been actively negotiating with Gracious Living Corp. of Woodbridge, Ont., said Wednesday he does not anticipate any setbacks in the authority’s effort to sell its 50-acre port terminal complex to the outdoor furniture manufacturer for $4.7 million.

“I am still optimistic,” he said.

The move, expected to be discussed at today’s board of commissioners meeting, marks the second extension for the company to pursue its “due diligence” investigations following an initial 30-day period granted last month. The original plan was announced in September with great fanfare that included comments by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

But NFTA officials said last month that the sheer size of the property and complexity of the transaction prompted Gracious Living to seek more time to complete its physical inspection of the cavernous buildings that formerly served as main facilities for the Port of Buffalo.

Zemsky added on Wednesday that the company continues to conduct environmental inspections at the site, which also once served as a Ford Motor Co. manufacturing facility. He said the authority decided to extend the company’s rights to purchase the property for another 60 days to allow for a thorough investigation.

“From my standpoint, none of this is unusual or unexpected,” he said. “You never say it’s over until it’s over, but it’s on track.”

The sale announced in September follows years of NFTA efforts to concentrate on its core transportation mission, get out of the waterfront business, and find an appropriate use for the buildings. Until the sale was announced, the authority had had no success in marketing the 400,000 square feet of warehousing and office space, with high bay doors, rail and water access, and parking for 500 cars.

But Gracious Living has been looking to establish its first U.S. location as well as access to the huge American market, and originally hoped to be operating by late this year. The company makes outdoor furniture, indoor and outdoor organizing products, garage utility systems and pet accessories sold in big-box stores.

It operates two manufacturing facilities in suburban Toronto employing about 1,000 people and listing $100 million in sales.

David Minor, the company’s vice president, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

But Zemsky said Gracious Living’s investigation of the site will be expedited when better weather arrives.

“It’s been pretty frosty out there,” he said, “so environmental diligence has not been so easy on that tundra.”