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ECIDA approves changes to Richmond Avenue church project

The developers behind a $10.8 million project to convert the former Richmond Methodist Episcopal Church into a campus for the visual and performing arts is adding a single, small apartment so it can qualify for more lucrative property tax breaks offered through the City of Buffalo.

The 400-square-foot apartment being added to the project will allow developers Rachel Ann and Ryan Heckl to qualify for property tax incentives offered through a program administered by the City of Buffalo that offers more lucrative subsidies that last several years longer than the tax breaks available through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

The project also is getting $345,625 in sales tax breaks through the IDA.

The developers received approval for the revised project Wednesday from the IDA. The agency agreed to back the project even though the developers incorrectly said the project was current on its taxes when the IDA first granted tax breaks for the project in June 2017.

The agency, as part of the review it conducts to make sure projects receiving incentives are current on their taxes, later found that the site had nearly $18,000 in unpaid city and county taxes at the time of the approval.

Bonnie Danni, the chief financial officer of 467 Richmond Avenue LLC, told the agency she "lost sight of the taxes" as the developer tried to line up financing and advance the project and did not mean to deceive the agency.

The developers paid the taxes last month and the IDA determined that the project now is in compliance with its policy to crack down on tax scofflaws.

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