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Architects plan to save boarded up lumber mill with new offices

Two architects plan to save a boarded-up lumber mill in North Tonawanda by turning it into offices.

Kelley Culp-Burton and Joy Kuebler have a $3.15 million plan to turn the 90-year-old lumber warehouse at 211 Main St. into offices for their companies, KCB Architecture and Joy Kuebler Landscape Architects, and perhaps other tenants.

The building is regarded as one of the last remnants of North Tonawanda's days as a major lumber processing center, which earned it the nickname of the "Lumber City."

"It's one of the last standing lumber mills in North Tonawanda that retains its original character," Culp-Burton said.

The owners have asked the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for a 10-year tax break to help convert the property.

The IDA board received the application Wednesday from Enterprise Lumber and Silo, which is a holding company owned by the principals of two architectural firms.

"We'd have a nice mix of our permanent space, the semi-permanent leased space and entrepreneurs," said Kuebler, who owns 12 percent of Enterprise Lumber and Silo. Culp-Burton owns the other 88 percent.

Both women work from their homes. Their new holding company was named after the lumber firm that owned the mill from 1925 to 1936.

Esco Lumber, a building materials company, operated on the site from 1936 to 1993. The building housed storage, auto repair and other businesses until the city condemned it in 2015.

Current condition of 211 Main St., North Tonawanda.

The redesigned building would cover more than 17,000 square feet. Most of the financing would come in the form of bank loans, but a $300,000 state Restore NY grant obtained through the City of North Tonawanda also would be used, according to the company's IDA application.

The application promises the equivalent of seven new full-time jobs on top of the 11 jobs already on the two firms' payrolls.

The company is asking for a mortgage tax exemption and an exemption from paying sales tax on building materials and furnishings, as well as reduced property taxes.

The IDA staff calculated that the incentives would save Enterprise Lumber and Silo about $359,000 over 10 years.

A public hearing on the tax break is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 3 in the North Tonawanda Public Library, 505 Meadow Drive. The IDA board is likely to vote at its next meeting July 12.

North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, an IDA board member, endorsed the plan in a letter that called the idea "a welcome investment into downtown North Tonawanda."

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