The Erie County Industrial Development Agency is moving forward with plans to put a $25 million “net-zero” manufacturing and commercial office building in Lackawanna that could start generating its own energy and hosting tenants in July 2018.
The agency on Wednesday unanimously voted to allocate $1.5 million toward acquiring a site, designing a building, and initiating the first steps that could eventually lead to the start of construction in less than a year.
The goal is to construct a 101,100-square-foot cutting-edge building that could be leased to a mix of tenants for whom energy conservation is a goal. Supporters say the initiative also would revitalize a polluted brownfield. And it would demonstrate such a project is not only achievable, but “scalable and replicable.”
“This body, in its 40-year history, has always been up in front as a leader. This gives ECIDA another chance to lead versus follow,” said ECIDA CEO Steven Weathers. “We want to be able to show that this can be done.”
The proposed project – codenamed “Z7+” because it seeks to exceed “zero net energy” and envisions seven opportunities for sustainability – is designed to produce as much energy onsite as it uses during the course of the year, and even exceed that amount to provide it back to the energy grid. It would use geothermal energy, solar panels, wind turbines and specific architectural features to meet goals of a healthy work environment, low-energy use, a sustainable carbon-neutral footprint, and little or no waste.
According to ECIDA documents, the new building would include 76,280 square feet of leasable space, with 50,840 for light manufacturing, 25,400 square feet for office, and 5,475 square feet for shared and support space. Potential tenants include food-processing, distribution and high-tech fabrication firms. The final cost could range from $17 million to $25 million.
ECIDA officials have already been working on preliminary concepts. The agency board late last year approved spending $140,000 for a feasibility study, and selected a design team led by HGA Architects and Engineers of Minneapolis, along with C&S Companies, CBRE-Buffalo, Siracuse Engineers, Singleton Construction and Integral Group. Officials also considered an alternative site in Buffalo.
The funds approved Wednesday include $375,000 to obtain 12.5 acres of property at the northeastern corner of the Bethlehem Steel site, near the intersection of Ridge Road and Route 5, plus $125,000 for administrative, testing, demolition and permitting costs, and up to $1 million for site design and construction management. The board also directed staff to begin seeking qualified developers or contractors, as well as funding sources.
Plans call for having bid documents by July 19, with the board approving a funding package by Jan. 30. Construction would begin March 1, 2017.
“There is widespread community and institutional support, not only here but nationally,” Weathers said. “We want to do this now, not later.”