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Sumitomo Rubber buys industrial site of plant destroyed in '88 fire

Sumitomo Rubber USA has acquired 6.4 acres in the Town of Tonawanda where a fire destroyed a chemical plant nearly 30 years ago.

Sumitomo paid $192,900 for the property at 3445 River Road, adjacent to its tire manufacturing complex on Sheridan Drive.

The tiremaker said it doesn't yet have specific plans for the property, which it acquired from an affiliate of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. But the purchase does give the company more options as it develops plans for the tire plant's expansion, said Tim Noe, senior vice president of manufacturing.

Sumitomo in October 2015 reclaimed full control of what was called the Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America plant. The company has unveiled plans to invest $87 million in the complex.

The deal provides a new direction for a property that for years failed to attract a buyer. The site was once home to Polymer Applications, which made resins, plastics and rubber products. The plant was destroyed in a 1988 fire, and a smaller fire two years later spelled the end of the company's limited remaining operations there.

Federal and state environmental agencies cleaned up the site at a cost of $6 million. But the cleanup did not extend to demolition of the buildings on the property.

National Grid and the ECIDA provided a combined $500,000 to help make the site "shovel-ready" for a new user, including the demolition of buildings, according to the ECIDA. The county foreclosed on the property in 2013 due to $2.2 million in accrued taxes and interest, and sold the land to the ECIDA affiliate, called the Industrial Land Development Corp.

Efforts to sell the property in the past few years attracted inquiries but no purchase offers, until Sumitomo made its offer last December, according to the ECIDA.

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