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Northland Corridor to include movie stagehand training, coding school

Welders, sheet metal workers, machinists and other skilled mechanical trades won't be the only people getting sophisticated training at the city's Northland Corridor.

They'll be joined by theatrical and movie stagehands.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said Tuesday that the city has signed an agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 10 to set up a training center in 10,000 square feet of space as part of the Northland light-industrial hub, located on the city's East Side.

The new facility, first unveiled in the mayor's State of the City address, would provide training to "all people who work in theater staging or movie staging," Brown said Tuesday, citing the growing activity in Buffalo in that field. That includes those who work in live theater, movie and television production.

"There will be a lot of members of our community that that will be very beneficial to," he said.

Last year, he noted, more than $42 million worth of filmmaking took place in Buffalo and Erie County, "and we're looking for a significant year again as relates to film," he added.

Additionally, the mayor said, the city has been working with the state and Buffalo Urban Development Corp. – which owns and is managing the Northland redevelopment project – to bring a computer coding school to Northland. Like the stagehands training, it was initially mentioned in the State of the City Address, and would also take up about 10,000 square feet of space.

"Those talks that have been led by the state for us are going very well," he told the BUDC Board of Directors, of which he is chairman. He declined to identify the national entity, a leader in designing industry-specific IT courses, "because the talks are still ongoing, but that will be a tremendous development for Northland."

The new theatrical skills training and coding school would both be separate from the primary Western New York Workforce Training Center, which is the core of the entire Northland project.

The exact locations of the two new programs on the 35-acre Northland campus are still to be determined, along with many other details, said BUDC President Peter Cammarata, who said both initiatives have been handled directly by the mayor's office.

"Our focus is on the Workforce Training Center at this point," Cammarata said. "These would come at a later date, but we'd definitely have room for them."

Located in 100,000 square feet of the 235,000-square-foot facility at 683 Northland Ave., the state-funded Workforce Training Center is designed to provide jobs training for residents of the East Side and other city neighborhoods so they can obtain positions in advanced manufacturing fields. Construction on the training center, supported by Gov. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion initiative, is now underway, and is about 40 percent complete.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works is also relocating to Northland, to the same building as the training center, in a second phase of that facility's renovation, supported by Buffalo Billion II. Additional space will remain in that building for other tenants.

Besides the main building, work is also progressing at 612 Northland, which is slated to become an entrepreneurial center that officials hope to have completed and ready for lease later this year.

And at 537 East Delavan, formerly Houdaille Industries, design work is underway for a proposed food and wellness enterprise in the 40,000-square-foot building that would be run by Project Rainfall, with significant city support.

Brown said plans call for essentially an urban farm aimed at providing better access to fresh food for the local community. Project Rainfall received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and is now developing a business plan.

According to Watts Architecture & Engineering, which is working with BUDC on Northland, the project would include a 25,500 square-foot aquaponics farm, a 5,000-square-foot farmer's market, a teaching kitchen to help people learn how to prepare healthy meals, a multipurpose room, and a food store that will sell fresh fruits, vegetables and fish.

A rendering of Project Rainfall, to be located in the former Houdaille Industries plant at 537 East Delavan Ave., as part of the Northland Corridor.

There will also be fish and vegetable production areas that will service the aquaponics facility each week but will also be available for local farmers to prepare crops for sale in local markets.

"We're trying to address a larger vision here," said BUDC Vice President David Stebbins.

Overall, the Northland Corridor consists of more than a dozen properties and over 35 acres of land, designed to create a new economic development center in the midst of Buffalo's impoverished East Side. Some buildings or portions of buildings are being rehabilitated and renovated for reuse by new light-industrial tenants, while others are being demolished and cleared as new shovel-ready land.

The state is also funding streetscape and roadway improvements to Northland Avenue and nearby streets, creating a more welcoming gateway at both ends while enhancing the neighborhood.

In all, Brown noted, the total state support for the Northland project, including all sources of funding, has now risen from $44 million initially to more than $100 million. "The vision that we're all working on at Northland is taking shape very nicely," he said.

The BUDC Board also approved a $55,585 contract with Deltex Electric to restore electrical service to 612 Northland and a $99,766 contract for additional environmental cleanup work from LiRo Engineers to handle more soil that was found to be contaminated with oil.

It also approved three contracts for furniture and fixtures for the Workforce Training Center, for 57 separate items for offices, classrooms and labs. The contracts with Eaton Office Supply, Eaton Wrightline and Prentice Office Environment total $161,423, $22,862 and $510,696, respectively.

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