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LPCiminelli to shut down general contracting operations

LPCiminelli, the construction firm that has dominated the Western New York marketplace for years, is shutting down its general contracting company and auctioning its heavy equipment.

The Buffalo-based company said late Tuesday it had "made the business decision" to stop general contracting work, but would continue to focus on construction management, program management and development, according to an emailed statement from Kyle Tuttle, the company's new president.

The company will sell off construction equipment, including forklifts, pickup trucks and mobile office trailers, during a public auction next week.

Tuttle did not elaborate further.

The firm's troubles are well-known. Company founder and former CEO Louis P. Ciminelli is under federal indictment, along with two of his executives, for alleged bid-rigging and bribery in a public corruption case that stemmed from the state's Buffalo Billion project at RiverBend. LPCiminelli had won the $750 million state contract to construct the 1.1-million-square-foot solar manufacturing plant that is now home to Tesla and Panasonic Corp.

Ciminelli and the other executives – Kevin Schuler and Michael Laipple – have denied all charges and are awaiting the start of a trial that is months away. All three resigned from their company positions in January, turning the reins over to Louis' son, Frank L. Ciminelli II.

Ciminelli, two execs charged with bribery, bid rigging

Louis Ciminelli remains majority owner and earlier this year formed a new firm to help LPCiminelli by working on infrastructure development opportunities outside the state.

In the meantime, though, the firm has said the probe has hampered its ability to get new business following the arrest of the three executives in September 2016. Officials in February said in court documents that bad publicity surrounding the investigation and indictments had cost the firm $3.88 billion worth of "work and inventory" over the prior 18 months.

LPCiminelli cites $3.88 billion in lost work from criminal probe

Frank Ciminelli has separated himself from his father's company as well, launching a new construction management company called Arc Building Partners and taking key staff members and much of the commercial business with him.

Frank Ciminelli leaves LPCiminelli to focus on own firm

Still, that doesn't mean LPCiminelli is finished. Rather, Tuttle said, "we will continue to focus all of our efforts on construction management and program management, along with development opportunities."

The precise impact of the decision isn't clear yet, and Tuttle declined to speak to The Buffalo News on Tuesday. The company is currently engaged as the construction manager to finish University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, although that job is mostly done and now largely involves overseeing subcontractors and union trades.

It was also originally slated to work with Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. on a second Conventus medical building on High Street in the future, as well as a proposed mixed-use project with housing, retail and a parking ramp at 201 Ellicott St. That work has now been passed on to Frank Ciminelli's new firm.

LPCiminelli is also the lead developer and contractor on the redevelopment of the 27-acre former Central Park Plaza site into the new Highland Park Village, with more than 600 apartments, townhouses and single-family homes planned for the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood. Work began just over a month ago on the first phase, but it's expected to take at least five years to complete.

LPCiminelli – named for its longtime leader – has been a major force in large-scale construction projects in Western New York for decades, having evolved from a predecessor company, the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Co., that was started by Louis' father. Over the years, the firm has handled a range of work for governments, universities, medical facilities, school districts, casinos, stadiums, hotels and museums, as well as commercial offices.

Its projects have included the new federal courthouse in Buffalo, the municipal courthouse in Niagara Falls, the Clinical and Translational Research Center and a parking ramp on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and school renovations and reconstruction projects in Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls.

By shutting down the general contracting company, LPCiminelli would focus less on actual construction and more on coordinating and overseeing others. That requires less staff, equipment and overhead.

Ciminelli being treated for 'significant' health condition as he awaits trial

LPCiminelli is conducting a "wall-to-wall" asset-liquidation sale this month through a Geneseo-based auctioneer, Roy Teitsworth Inc.

All of the contents of its 1740 Broadway facility – everything from hammers, saws and drills to tool boxes, benches and tables – are available for sale to the highest bidders. The equipment includes lasers of all kinds, acetylene kits, pickup trucks and other vehicles.

"The market is very good for that kind of thing, and what they have is desirable. They've taken very good care of their equipment," said Roy Teitsworth, president of the auctioneering company.

More than 2,000 items are up for purchase starting at 8 a.m. Dec. 12 at 1740 Broadway in Buffalo.

"The auction is for the purpose of disposing of the heavy equipment we no longer need," Tuttle said in his emailed statement.

Teitsworth predicted strong interest, noting there is equipment "that a professional would buy that works in that trade every day," but also items to attract "somebody who wants to buy a good used pickup truck or some smaller things for smaller jobs."

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