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Work begins in Hamburg for $51 million FedEx distribution center

Workers have started to clear a 51-acre parcel of vacant land in Hamburg on part of a former Bethlehem Steel Corp. property, in preparation for starting construction on a $51 million distribution center for FedEx Ground Transport.

Jones Development Co., a Kansas City-based developer that frequently works with FedEx Corp. on its major facilities, plans to build a 320,000-square-foot facility that would employ more than 150 people when it opens in May 2016, and possibly more as demand increases.

Original projections called for up to 600. The firm acquired the land just south of Ford Motor Co.’s Buffalo Stamping Plant, near the intersection of Route 5 and Bayview Road. The site is on the north side of a sprawling 129-acre property once owned by the steelmaker but never developed.

The original contract with the town, which acquired the land three years ago through Hamburg New York Land Development Co., called for a purchase price of $1.253 million, or $25,000 an acre, but the final price was $1.217 million, according to Erie County Clerk’s Office records.

Plans call for Jones to spend $31 million, including the purchase price, on the building and infrastructure, while FedEx invests $20 million more to set up and equip the facility, which it will lease from Jones.

The project will also include access roads from both Bayview and Route 5, and at least one traffic light, on Route 5.

FedEx has been working with officials from the town, Erie County and the state on the project.

“I think they’re looking to have the shell of the building completed by September or October,” said Michael J. Bartlett, executive director of the Hamburg Industrial Development Agency, which includes the Land Development Co. “It’s a pretty aggressive time frame. … This is the biggest project we’ve had since the McKinley Mall.”

The new facility is part of a nationwide network expansion by Memphis-based FedEx, which has added 11 major hubs and expanded 500 other facilities since 2005 to boost its daily package capacity and speed up processing, in response to a significant increase in its shipping business.

Bartlett said the operation will be capable of processing about 15,000 packages an hour.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based package-delivery company, which currently maintains its big ground transportation operation in Cheektowaga, also has four office printing and shipping stores in the area.

And its affiliated FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage division, the custom brokerage operation for its international ground service, last year opened a new $5.2 million, 88,000-square-foot facility in Riverview Solar Technology Park in the Town of Tonawanda, with more than 1,000 employees.

The Hamburg project has been in the works for more than a year but was delayed by a wetlands review by the Army Corps of Engineers, which was finally hastened and completed just three days after U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., intervened to publicly prod the agency to complete the report.

A separate environmental review did not turn up any problems, as the site was never used for industry.