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ECC to be included in plans for Ellicott Street grocery store project

The city’s plans to get a grocery store, condominiums and a parking ramp on a vacant downtown parking lot near the public library will now have a new potential tenant in the mix: Erie Community College.

City officials on Tuesday announced that the two-year community college wants to be part of the process of exploring how to redevelop the city-owned property at 201 Ellicott St.

The school is already engaged in its own master planning effort that could include adding another building to its downtown campus. And its leaders want to see if the vacant lot could meet its future space needs, so that ECC would be part of that project instead of doing a stand-alone building.

“Erie Community College is one of Buffalo’s higher education institutions and plays an important role in our city’s economic growth,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown.

“By incorporating ECC’s plan to add a new downtown building into the city’s 201 Ellicott Street project, we are enhancing the overall scope of this project by bringing the successful developer an anchor tenant who is looking to bolster its downtown presence.”

ECC officials hope that their involvement in the project will not only help to address their need for more space for both academic and non-academic programs, but also help the school in actually strengthening its offerings with a “re-imagined City Campus,” ECC President Jack Quinn said.

“Ongoing planning for the future of many of ECC’s academic and non-academic programs has illustrated the need for enhanced downtown space,” Quinn said. “We’re excited about the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Buffalo and we’re committed to continuing as a vital part of the city’s present and future.”

The city on May 8 issued a formal “request-for-proposals” to several hundred developers and investors to solicit detailed concepts for creating a mixed-use building on the property, which takes up an entire city block.

With the involvement of ECC, the city is now reissuing the request Tuesday, but this time as a search for the most qualified developer who would be designated to work with a grocery chain, ECC and other various stakeholders to come up with a detailed project. That’s a broader opportunity for developers to “transform a prime downtown parcel,” Brown said.

“Instead of looking for pretty pictures and a proposal, we’re now looking for the qualifications of the developer,” said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning, which directs the city’s real estate and development efforts. “This gives the developer the opportunity to work with the tenants before a final project is proposed.”

The 2.5-acre lot, which is currently used for 300 surface parking spaces, is bounded by Ellicott, Oak, Eagle and Clinton streets, adjacent to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bus terminal, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and Hotel@the Lafayette. Officials note its proximity to Canalside, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Larkin District, as well as the rest of downtown.

As before, the solicitation will be sent to 400 potential developers, including 90 local developers and brokers, 285 national developers and brokers, 50 retailers, almost 70 minority developers and almost 50 women-owned developers. It can also be found online. Responses with qualifications must be typed and submitted both in a bound document and electronically.

The deadline for submissions remains noon on July 29, but a previous deadline of this Friday to register for the process is no longer valid, Mehaffy said. Questions and inquiries can be made through July 22 at noon, with responses also posted online for others to see.