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BUDC seeks ECIDA tax breaks for Buffalo Manufacturing Works project

As the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. continues to target an August completion for the Northland Workforce Training Center, the quasi-city agency is now seeking tax breaks for the second phase of the state-funded project – Buffalo Manufacturing Works.

BUDC is converting a 239,314-square-foot former manufacturing facility, on 10 acres at 683 Northland Ave., into the central component of the new 35-acre light-industrial economic development hub on Buffalo's East Side. That's part of a joint city-state venture to bring more jobs and investment to long-impoverished neighborhoods of the city.

The project, whose total state support now exceeds $100 million, is anchored by the Workforce Training Center. That will occupy about 100,000 square feet of the building to train 300 to 350 low-income city residents per year in a variety of advanced manufacturing skills.

But the rest of the facility will be taken up by Buffalo Manufacturing Works and other tenants. Meanwhile, BUDC and its contractors are working to prepare nearly a dozen other properties and five buildings in the Northland complex for other future uses.

In the first phase of work, BUDC and its contractors renovated 117,968 square feet for the training center and additional spaces that could be leased to small light-industrial companies and other businesses. That work is wrapping up, with classes slated to begin by August or September. Officials say there are likely to be more than 20,000 jobs in the manufacturing and energy sectors by 2020.

Now officials are turning their attention to the second phase at Northland. Specifically, BUDC is seeking a package of sales, mortgage recording and property tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to support the renovation, upgrading and equipping of the other half of the building, totaling about 121,346 square feet.

Northland Training Center moves toward August opening

That includes the 51,000-square-foot "state of the art" Buffalo Manufacturing Works applied research and development center. Buffalo Manufacturing Works, operated by EWI, works with companies across North America to develop and implement cutting-edge manufacturing techniques that will enhance their competitiveness, make them more productive and help them grow. It's a partnership of industry, research and academia, designed to help up to 100 local manufacturers each year, according to BUDC's application to the ECIDA.

The rest of Phase II consists of 56,061 square feet for light industrial tenants, and 14,285 square feet for common tenant facilities such as loading docks and mechanical rooms. Officials expect those private-sector companies to employ up to 284 people, according to the ECIDA application.

"The project is expected to serve as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization," BUDC said in its application.

Construction on Workforce Training Center to begin in June

The $41 million project includes $32.27 million for renovation, $6 million for furniture and fixtures, $2.1 million for professional services and $600,000 for other expenses. It's expected to retain or create 37 jobs, paying salaries ranging from $30,000 to $85,000.

The 106-year-old building at 683 Northland is the former headquarters for Niagara Machine & Tool Company, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so the project is eligible for $10 million in state and federal historic tax credits. It's also a brownfield site contaminated with PCBs, "volatile organic compounds" and other pollutants, so it qualifies for state brownfield cleanup tax credits. And the project is funded in large part with $25 million in Buffalo Billion money, as well as cash from other state sources.

Even so, BUDC claims, "the extraordinary costs" of the project – including the historic preservation requirements, remediation expenses and energy-efficiency investments for an aging building that's been empty for 20 years – "exceed the available resources." A property tax payment-in-lieu-of-taxes was already issued for Phase 1, but BUDC now wants $1.9 million in sales tax breaks

Without the tax help from ECIDA, "the scope of the project may need to be reduced," BUDC claims.

If approved, work would begin in August, with completion by Aug. 31, 2019. Besides 683 Northland, the project also includes 665, 644, 664, 688 and 690 Northland, according to the application to ECIDA.

A public hearing on the ECIDA application will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, July 2, at 95 Perry St.

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