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Developer seeks IDA tax break to renovate building in downtown Lockport

WHEATFIELD – Iskalo Development Co., which is about to complete a purchase on a commercial building in downtown Lockport, applied Wednesday for a tax break on the property.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency will schedule a public hearing sometime in the coming month before voting on the request May 11.

Iskalo is buying 57 Canal St., a three-story, 25,600-square-foot stone building overlooking the Erie Canal locks, from Greater Lockport Development Corp., or GLDC, the city development agency, for $375,000.

Matthew S. Roland, development project manager, said Iskalo, based in Williamsville, intends to close on the deal by the end of this month.

The company plans a $1.25 million renovation, concentrating on the first floor, which is vacant. Iskalo intends to turn it into two rentable units and already is talking with one potential tenant, Roland said.

The second and third floors are occupied by the research and development facilities of Trek Inc., an electronic implement manufacturer whose production plant is at Harrison Place in Lockport.

Roland said Trek will be staying at 57 Canal St., a building erected in the late 19th century. Harrison Radiator, now GM Components, was founded in the building in 1910.

It had been vacant for many years before the city, primarily using state and federal grants, began a renovation project, which was carried out, starting in 2001, by Rochester developer Ben Kendig. He had a 42-year lease, but the city bought him out in 2008.

“It’s a critical building for GLDC and the development of downtown Lockport,” said Joan G. Aul, chairwoman of the Lockport agency and an IDA board member. She abstained from voting on Iskalo’s application.

The company is seeking a five-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, for its $1.25 million upgrade, which will include lowering the windows on the first floor to place them closer to street level, altering the facade, repairing a leak in the roof and preparing the space for either commercial or retail use.

Susan C. Langdon, IDA director of projects and finance, said the project is eligible for a PILOT because it’s located in an area considered depressed. The IDA has an Opportunity Zone program that offers property tax exemptions to projects in the downtown areas of Niagara County’s three cities. The deal, which also would include a sales tax exemption on building materials and furnishings, would save Iskalo an estimated $195,000.

Roland estimated that 18 jobs would be created once the first-floor space is leased. Trek has 26 workers at the site.

Also Wednesday, the IDA approved a sales tax exemption for Wheatfield Family Dentistry, 3349 Niagara Falls Blvd., to expand the dental practice into a 1,500-square-foot portion of the building that had been set aside for rental to another business. Dr. Kathleen M. Casacci said that she couldn’t find a tenant and that, in the meantime, her practice is growing into the space.

Casacci intends to add another dentist and a massage therapist. She has added five staff members since the practice opened after receiving a PILOT in 2011. The property tax abatement has eight years to run and will apply to the increased assessed valuation resulting from the new project, IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said.

Casacci said she expects to add five more jobs in the next three to five years. The sales tax break will save the dentist about $30,000 on a $550,000 project.