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Beer bottling facility, winery planned for former Linde Air factory

Not content with the redeveloped residential empire he’s already built, developer Rocco Termini is taking aim at his fourth real estate conversion project in a former North Buffalo industrial zone.

But this time, he’s focusing on high-tech clients, while adding an alcoholic twist.

Termini, through his Signature Development Buffalo LLC, wants to convert the former Linde Air Manufacturing facility at 155 Chandler St. into a mixed-use complex that includes office space for software developers, plus a brewery bottling and canning facility, and a winery. The concept will be considered by the Buffalo Planning Board Monday night.

The $8 million project, named the Chandler Incubator, will reuse a century-old manufacturing and processing building to encourage new business growth in an up-and-coming area of Buffalo. The developer even hopes to get the building included in the state’s Start-Up NY program, enabling those new businesses in its space – and their employees – to qualify for exemptions on corporate or even personal income taxes in exchange for job creation and investment.

Termini said he’s negotiating a partnership to serve as an extension of an area college or university, which is required for participation in the program. But he would not identify what school until an agreement is signed.

“The deal isn’t finalized. It’s close, but not final,” he said. If he succeeds, he projects about 50 new permanent jobs at companies in the building.

Documents filed with the Buffalo Planning Board call for renovating the 90,000-square-foot brick building into an 80,000-square-foot complex, with 10 apartments and the commercial space. An adjacent paved parcel at 157 Chandler, with grass growing in it, will be turned into parking for the new project.

However, Termini said in an interview that he will likely abandon the apartments if he gets into Start-Up NY, because the program does not permit residential living space. If so, the entire building would be commercial space.

He already has both a brewery and a winery lined up to occupy 30,000 square feet between them, but would not identify them yet. A growing new software development firm called Utilant, which specializes in programming for property and casualty insurance, has already agreed to rent 25,000 square feet, while the rest remains available for lease.

Additionally, the building has an interior courtyard, where Termini plans “seasonal amenities” for tenants, such as volleyball or bocce courts, and an in-ground pool. No other retail or restaurant space is planned.

“It’s perfect for what I want to do,” Termini said. “It’s got high ceilings. It’s cool space. It has a huge courtyard. It has plenty of parking, and it’s close to Elmwood Avenue.”

And it’s necessary, he said, in order to attract startup companies to Buffalo, especially in technology fields, where there’s heavy competition from other cities and communities that may be more appealing than Buffalo. “The kind of space they’re looking for is cool space. We don’t have a lot of cool space in Buffalo,” Termini said. “If we want to retain these companies, we have to give them the structure they’re used to. It’s tough to get software developers to come to Buffalo, because they’re accustomed to certain environments that we don’t have here in Buffalo.”

Located at the corner of Chandler and Manton streets, just over two blocks from Elmwood, the new project is part of what Termini has dubbed the Pierce-Arrow Neighborhood because of the dominance of the historic Pierce-Arrow administration and manufacturing complex nearby. It adds to the developer’s prior successes with converting the former FWS Furniture Warehouse building into the Foundry Suites, the Houk Wire Manufacturing Building into the Houk Lofts, and the former American Radiator Company headquarters into the Arco Lofts.

The mostly one-story building, with a two-story section, was constructed in 1901 by the John W. Cowper Co. Today, it is largely under-used, with window openings boarded up, debris strewn on the property and graffiti on some exterior walls. It’s owned by the Ontario Equipment Company Inc., but Termini’s company has it under contract to be acquired for $591,000.

The project will utilize state and federal historic tax credits, so no exterior changes are planned. The two-acre site is already zoned for manufacturing, and it is located next to a residential area – Grote Street – so Termini said a change of use is already allowed.

If approved, construction would start in December, with work finishing by July 2017.


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