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Benderson to turn vacant Union Road plaza into light industrial complex

Benderson Development Company wants to meet the region's need for industrial and manufacturing space by converting a vacant retail plaza on the Cheektowaga-West Seneca border into a sprawling new light industrial complex.

The Sarasota, Fla.-based real estate firm, whose roots remain in Buffalo, plans to redevelop the 178,000-square-foot Garden Village Plaza at 2343 Union Road by demolishing part of it, renovating another part and building 265,000 square feet of new facilities on adjoining land.

Benderson has applied for a package of tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to support the $21 million project.

"The IDA benefits will be paramount to the success of the Garden Village Project by enabling Benderson to provide newly built, first-class light industrial and warehouse space at competitive rental rates," Benderson executives wrote in their application.

According to documents filed with the agency, Benderson plans to knock down 88,000 square feet of the 42-year-old plaza, while rehabbing a 90,000-square-foot building on the West Seneca side that used to house Ames Department Store. The rest of the development would consist of new buildings constructed in anticipation of demand rather than specific tenants.

The 26.73 acres of land in both towns were rezoned for the project in September, although no new buildings will be erected in West Seneca. The project has received municipal approval. Officials hope to start construction by February and finish in late 2019. In all, the complex would more than double in size, to 355,000 square feet.

Benderson says it is "actively working on identifying tenants for the proposed buildings." But, it noted, "it is not feasible to wait to build until after tenants have been identified, because businesses are often not willing or able to wait until a developer will complete its buildings to expand to new locations or start their businesses."

"Therefore, in an effort to be responsive to the needs of the market, it is best to have completed spec buildings ready to be fitted to a proposed tenant's needs quickly," officials wrote in their application to the ECIDA.

In the documents, the developer cited the tight market in Western New York for warehouse, distribution and light manufacturing facilities. According to data from brokerage firm CBRE, just 3.6 percent of the total amount of industrial space in the entire region was available for lease as of a year ago. New updated data for the end of 2016 will be coming out shortly, but brokers have said for months that the tight conditions continue.

"There is a strong demand for more manufacturing and warehouse space in the Buffalo metro area," Benderson officials wrote in the ECIDA documents. "Following the recession, new development of the nature proposed has been virtually non-existent. This has enabled demand to grow while existing market supply nears capacity."

Even so, it claims it needs the tax breaks to overcome "significant risks and costs," not only from construction but from carrying the properties until they are leased.

The $20.7 million cost includes $11.4 million for new construction, $5.9 million for infrastructure, $2.7 million for renovation and $750,000 for other costs, including demolition and asbestos abatement. Benderson will fund the project, but is seeking $787,303 in sales tax breaks and a property tax abatement.

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