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Northland project costs rise, while city seeks minority, women contractors

City and state investments in the proposed Northland Corridor light-industrial hub on Buffalo's East Side have ballooned by more than 25 percent.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced Thursday that new funding sources bring the project total to over $60 million.

That includes money from the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. and National Grid, as well as the state's competitive Restore New York program. Most of the money is from the state, but the city is kicking in more than $5 million, including community development block grants.

The city also plans to spend additional dollars on streetscape and other improvements in the 35-acre area on Northland Avenue from Fillmore Avenue to Grider Street.

"We not only want to train residents, but have a profound positive impact on transforming this area of the city of Buffalo," Brown said.

As part of the state's Buffalo Billion economic development program, the city and state are collaborating to convert a longtime former industrial zone on the East Side into an economic development hub, using more than 750,000 square feet of space in multiple buildings on 35 acres. The properties were acquired by BUDC using $6.7 million in Buffalo Billion funds, and the agency is now overseeing the redevelopment of the entire site, with some buildings renovated while others are demolished and cleared in preparation for reuse.

The centerpiece of the project is the Western New York Workforce Training Center, to be housed in 100,000 square feet of a former manufacturing complex at 683 Northland Avenue. Another 138,000 square feet in that building will house other tenants, possibly including Buffalo Manufacturing Works if an agreement is reached to relocate.

Overall work is expected to begin by late March or early April, with the demolition of deteriorating portions of the complex at 537 East Delavan Ave., followed by additional demolitions on Fillmore and Northland avenues. Asbestos abatement is also included at two buildings, while the rest of 537 East Delavan would be rehabilitated.

Brown said the new $60 million tally will cover all the planned work, although some previous estimates have put the total cost as high as $75 million. The project cost was previously cited as $48 million, including $44 million from the state and $4 million from the city.

Meanwhile, city officials and their community outreach team began meeting with neighbors to ensure that minority- and women-owned small businesses, residents and local workers benefit from the project.

Compliance & Administrative Services of New York – the compliance specialist that was hired by BUDC – held its first informational session Thursday morning at the Delavan-Grider Community Center to talk about how to participate in the project.

CASNY, which is owned by Dolly Michelle Randle, took job applications and certifications from minority or women-owned contractors, as well as potential workers, to help with construction of Workforce Training Center. They would also work on renovations of the rest of that building and other facilities into new space for various other companies or organizations.

About 20 people attended, but Brown noted that officials plan to host a second one in a few weeks in the evening, also likely at Delavan-Grider. The city and its contractors have held a series of public meetings to help guide redevelopment plans.

“We are now moving from the discussion and planning stage, into the physical transformation of this site, which is key to our efforts to revitalize the Northland Corridor on our city’s East Side and prepare the next generation for the jobs powering Buffalo’s revitalization,” Brown said. “With today’s community workforce outreach event and the start of construction later this month, progress will be visible as we advance the process to accommodate the new Workforce Training Center.”

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