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Forward thinking by Falls officials has given new life to an industrial site

The 100 new high-paying jobs promised at a former Union Carbide property in Niagara Falls validates the city’s decision to purchase the site last year. That sort of anticipation has been displayed in other communities that have drawn large-scale projects to sites that were acquired and remediated without a tenant in hand.

Sandstone Springs plans to bring chemical research and development jobs into the site at 3625 Highland Ave. as soon as possible.

John Bordynuik, a Canadian businessman and operating partner of Sandstone Springs, which recycles kitchen countertops, was quoted in The News: “We do not have $12 an hour jobs. These are on the average $50,000, $60,000, $80,000 a year. When you pay people well, you get great people that care.”

Better still, once the company moves into the renovated buildings it will ramp up from research to a full-scale production facility. Sandstone will also expand its research capacity, looking to find other expensive manufactured material byproducts that can be chemically treated and made into another usable product.

Site preparation is key to the project.

The city is completing a $1.5 million remediation of the vacant property. Workers are moving as fast as they can while company officials anxiously wait. What a problem: a company anxious to move into a city on the mend.

Niagara Falls bought the 5.5-acre site in 2015 for $165,000 on the hope it could attract a new business. The purchase was the easy part. Since then it has been using $1 million in grants and $500,000 in city funds to remediate three buildings on the property.

Similarly, Buffalo bought the old Republic Steel site in 2008 and remediated it in hopes of attracting a buyer. Because the site was shovel-ready, the SolarCity solar panel factory is being built there.

Niagara Falls purchased the Highland site from Nick P. Dalacu, who was operating the Niagara Science Museum in one of the three buildings. Dalacu purchased the property for $40,000 but was unable to develop it on his own and, as reported in The News, even tried to sell it on eBay.

The outlook changed dramatically after the city bought the site. Officials set in motion a consolidated funding application process in which they would do various work on the buildings on spec, fixing up roofs, windows and heating systems, and advertise to get a user.

But before the city could really get started with that process, Sandstone Springs knocked on the door requesting the site. The company plans to grow its operation at 389 Ganson St. in Buffalo and build a business technology park at the former Union Carbide plant; Bordynuik told the Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency that he has invested $850,000 in cash in the planned project.

Niagara Falls city officials have had their eye on the entire Highland Brownfield Opportunity Area. Just south of 3625 Highland is another 23-acre remediation project where Brightfields LLC, a subsidiary of OSC Corp., a Buffalo-based company, has started work on the new $11.7 million Tulip Corp. molded plastics manufacturing facility. That is next door to the existing 114-year-old, 125,000-square-foot plant at 3125 Highland Ave. Both the old and new properties will become part of the larger Brightfields business park development.

When the former Union Carbide property became available immediately adjacent to these other properties, it wasn’t difficult for city officials to see an opportunity to grow the burgeoning light industrial site.

Sandstone Springs will lease all three buildings at the old Union Carbide site. The property and lease will stay with the Urban Renewal Agency until remediation is completed, and then the company will have the option to purchase.

Niagara Falls committed a considerable sum to the project with no guarantees. That forward thinking appears ready to pay off.

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