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Mayor upbeat on East Side business hub after Northland acquisition

Buffalo’s mayor is counting on a new East Side business park along Northland Avenue to bring “hundreds of jobs” to that neglected part of the city over the next few years, now that the city has completed assembling the land and buildings to attract companies to that area.

Mayor Byron W. Brown on Wednesday announced the purchase of the last major piece of property in the Northland Corridor business and training park, finishing the first stage of a process that has been in progress for over a year as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.

Officials now hope to convert more than a dozen properties that the city controls into shovel-ready or tenant-ready space that will bring light and clean manufacturing operations to the neighborhood bordered by East Delavan Avenue, Grider Street and the Northland Belt Line train tracks just above East Ferry Street.

The economic-development goal is to create an industrial hub that will attract private investment, provide training for workers and employ city residents, especially on the East Side.

“The Northland business and training park is coming to Buffalo’s East Side, and this means potentially hundreds of jobs and training opportunities for the residents of the City of Buffalo, and particularly residents here on the East Side,” Brown said during a morning news conference at 777 Northland Ave.

The city, through Buffalo Urban Development Corp., bought the five acres on Northland, near Grider, which includes an 80,000-square-foot former manufacturing facility that has been boarded up and vacant for over 30 years. The purchase price to former owner John Giardino was $50,000.

The stone and white brick building, which dates from the 1920s, was originally home to Otis Elevator Co. decades ago. It was later used by Curtiss-Wright during World War II, and then by Niagara Machine & Tool Works.

The series of acquisitions, cobbled together by BUDC over the last year from multiple owners and completed over the last few months, now puts more than 50 acres and 700,000 square-feet of manufacturing space in city control. In addition, officials plan to incorporate some nearby properties that are already city-owned, and the city is willing to acquire as much as 10 acres of additional land that may be available.

“We’ve been able to acquire a substantial amount of land, and we think that the capacity, the potential of what can be done here is very significant,” Brown said, citing a formal job-training facility as “desirable.”

“We want to make sure that people are trained for opportunities that are coming online and that they have every opportunity to take advantage of jobs that are being created in their community.”

The land purchases cap off a years-long effort by the city to bring new businesses to the Northland area. Brown said he identified the former industrial zone as ripe for redevelopment years ago, when he was a Common Councilman and later a state senator, and worked with BUDC leaders to propose the business park concept to Cuomo, who endorsed it. Brown even commissioned a historic study of some of the properties along the Belt Line railroad more than a year ago.

Empire State Development then allocated $6.7 million from the Buffalo Billion for the land purchases and studies, and Brown directed BUDC officials to “aggressively begin to assemble land.”

City leaders stressed the importance of making sure the economic revival and redevelopment in Buffalo isn’t limited to areas like downtown, the waterfront, North Buffalo and South Buffalo. Brown noted that any projects on the site will likely include “community benefit agreements” that set goals for hiring and contracting with women, minorities and city residents.

“When we talk about the City of Buffalo rising, it’s important that all areas rise. And so this is an example of that,” said Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen. “This is huge for the region to have a park like this in the city, close to the expressway, but in a rebounding neighborhood.”

email: jepstein@buffnews.com