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New Workforce Training Center will need bridge financing

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. is seeking an $8 million construction loan from local banks to enable it to start work within months on the new Western New York Workforce Training Center on the city's East Side.

The agency, which is affiliated with the city, is asking at least four local banks for "bridge financing" proposals to carry some of the project costs during the construction period.

The $40 million project, which calls for renovation of an old industrial building at 683 Northland Ave., includes financing from the sale of state and federal historic tax credits. Those tax credits won't be awarded until after the work is complete, so the agency has to wait to get investor money from those credits, leaving a temporary gap.

Officials plan to ask Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corp., Hamburg-based Evans Bancorp, Financial Institutions' Five Star Bank of Warsaw and Community Bank System of DeWitt to submit interest-only loan terms for up to two years, said BUDC Vice President David Stebbins. All have already been contacted by the agency. Stebbins said KeyCorp's KeyBank "wasn't interested" because "it didn't fit their portfolio."

The new Workforce Training Center is the centerpiece of the proposed Northland Corridor light-industrial hub, a $75 million Buffalo Billion project designed to clean up and reuse over 500,000 square feet of vacant and underused East Side land and buildings. The goal is to create a new economic development "hub" to create new jobs and investment in a long-neglected part of the city.

The training facility will occupy about 100,000 square feet of a larger 235,000-square-foot building on 7.3 acres at 683 Northland, which BUDC is redeveloping in conjunction with the city, the state and the New York Power Authority. It will include an Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and a Utility of the Future & Clean Energy Training Center, with classroom space, simulated hands-on training facilities, offices, food service and other amenities, according to BUDC documents.

The rest of the building will be renovated to provide flexible rental space of up to 20,000 square feet each for startup and small businesses, with loading docks, meeting spaces, a cafeteria and bathrooms. Other buildings in the 35-acre complex will also be redeveloped for lease or will be demolished to create shovel-ready land, community space or greenspace.

Construction is slated to begin by July 1.

Also, BUDC is planning to hire a local branding consulting firm to help market the Northland Corridor, spending up to $60,000 on the initial contract and creative work. Agency officials are also planning to award contracts for electrical substation repairs and upgrades, and for demolition of the main plant building at 537 E. Delavan Avenue.

A third public meeting about the project will be held Jan. 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Delavan-Grider Community Center.

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