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Northland Training Center moves toward August opening

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. and its contractors are pushing forward with efforts to complete the Northland Workforce Training Center in time for its August academic opening.

The city agency, working with the state, is redeveloping a sprawling former industrial building at 683 Northland Ave. into the hub of a new light-industrial zone in an impoverished area of Buffalo's East Side.

Officials this week approved more than $2.5 million in additional spending for the building's new Gigi's restaurant, a bookstore, the roof and infrastructure.

Plans call for the 235,000-square-foot building to include the state-funded Workforce Training Center, as well as Buffalo Manufacturing Works and other tenants, while several other neighboring properties and buildings will be converted eventually to other uses, such as movie stagehand and computer coding schools, and an urban farm.

The state is putting in more than $100 million into the economic development project.

Work on the first phase is 80 percent complete, with the office building slated to open by July 15 and high-bay lab spaces by Aug. 27. Street work is also progressing, with new curbs in place, and the city is "well on their way to having the road open, at least to 683 Northland, in time for school," said agency Executive Vice President David Stebbins.

The BUDC board of directors on Tuesday authorized spending $368,139 to purchase and install kitchen equipment for Gigi's, the East Side restaurant that will relocating to Northland Avenue after a fire destroyed its former location on East Ferry Street.

The restaurant will occupy a portion of the building that had been designated as a cafeteria. But now that it will be a complete restaurant, the overall plans have changed, prompting the additional costs.

"When we selected Gigi's, we knew there would be some changes required," Stebbins said. "It's a full-service restaurant, and it's worth it."

The agency will own the equipment and furnishings, including a new counter. "It will meet their needs from an operations standpoint and a service standpoint," Stebbins said.

"We have been very creative in bringing back a historic minority and women-owned business that is one of the oldest continually operated restaurant businesses in the City of Buffalo," said Mayor Byron W. Brown, who chairs the BUDC board.

Additionally, BUDC approved spending $57,463 for a bookstore that will be smaller than originally planned.

"They probably won't sell very many books. What they're looking for is accessory needs, like gloves," Stebbins said. "Bookstores have come a long way from my day."

The board also allocated $600,000 from the contingency fund, at the request of the Training Center, to increase the capacity of the labs to handle more students, particularly for electrical, compressed air and data infrastructure. The money will also be used to enhance signage outside the building and increase parking by converting a lot across the street that currently holds an electric substation.

"We really are trying to do what's absolutely necessary for the successful operation of the Workforce Training Center, but we are trying to make sure they're cognizant of the budget issues," Stebbins said. "We're nearing completion of the project now."

Attention is also turning to the second phase of the building renovation, which involves preparing the other part of the building for Buffalo Manufacturing Works and other tenants by July 2019. The board approved a $1.58 million roofing contract to Jameson Roofing Co. and $94,710 to buy skylight framing well in advance, both for Phase 2.

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