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Development council offers ‘wish list’ for projects to be funded by state

The relocation of the University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work to its Main Street campus and nearly $5 million for utility and road work associated with the proposed redevelopment of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital complex on Gates Circle top the wish list of projects seeking state money in an upcoming round of economic development funding.

The UB project and the Gates Circle work each are seeking $4.8 million as priority economic development projects in the fifth round of awards from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council program later this year.

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council on Monday approved 27 “priority projects” from the region, seeking up to $30 million from Empire State Development. Additional funding also will be available from other state agencies and programs.

In all, 10 of the projects are seeking $1 million in funding or more, ranging from $1.5 million for an advanced manufacturing incubator at Alfred State College to $1.8 million for an expansion of the Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda and $1 million for a small business development fund.

But almost a third of the wish list was devoted to the UB and Millard Fillmore projects. At Gates Circle, the funding would pay for the construction of roads and underground utilities. TM Montante is seeking to convert the former hospital complex into a mixed-use community, featuring more than 500 new residential units in addition to a mixture of stores and office space. The project calls for 136,000 square feet of retail space, including a 60,000-square-foot fitness center and a planned urban grocery store of 20,000 to 25,000 square feet.

The relocation of the UB School of Social Work from its North Campus to its South Campus would ease crowding at the university’s Amherst campus while also adding new activity to a Main Street campus that will be losing one of its key academic centers when UB’s medical school moves to new facilities on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The council also is seeking $2.8 million in state funding for a 100-room, $24 million destination hotel proposed by Chautauqua Harbor Hotel LLC, an entity that shares the same address as Buffalo-based Hart Hotels. The hotel, which would include a ballroom and banquet space, would be built on waterfront land east of the Lucille Ball Memorial Park on the Chautauqua Lake shoreline in Celoron.

Erie County is seeking $2.3 million for the redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel complex in Lackawanna. The $10 million project would involve the acquisition of about 100 acres of brownfields along Route 5, which then would be cleaned up and turned into a shovel-ready industrial site.

The council also is seeking $2 million in funding for SUNY Alfred’s proposal to create a Biorefinery Development and Commercialization Center in Wellsville.

The $10.4 million center would help companies scale-up the production of bio-renewable materials and sustainable energy using a Hot Water Extraction process developed at SUNY ESF in Syracuse.

The council’s recommendations now will be reviewed and rated by state officials. The state’s 10 development zones will compete later this year for funding – three regions will win $30 million apiece in ESD money, the rest $15 million each.