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Uniland seeks tax breaks for 505 Ellicott project with lone apartment

Uniland Development Co. is moving forward with its plan to nearly double the size of an existing one-story building on Ellicott Street and create a new high-tech facility in downtown Buffalo – even with no tenants lined up yet.

But first it needs to finalize the financing, including assistance from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

The Amherst-based developer is asking the ECIDA for a package of sales, mortgage recording and property tax breaks to help fund the $7.88 million project, located at 505 Ellicott St., just south of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. That's a property that Uniland acquired in July 2014, along with two adjacent parcels, from Frey the Wheelman for $1.3 million.

Plans call for renovating both the inside and outside of the 20,000-square-foot vacant warehouse, adding a brick facade on Ellicott Street to match the neighborhood while creating a mezzanine level for additional space, according to the developer's application to the ECIDA.

That will result in a 35,097-square-foot building, with 31,363 square feet of flexible office space that provides both short- and long-term workspace options for users. The rest of the 45-year-old building will feature a 1,326-square-foot cafe or other retail area, plus a single residential apartment of 882 square feet. The one apartment– with a monthly rent of $1,000 to $1,100 – will qualify the project for the city's lucrative 485-a property tax break on the entire project.

Uniland spokeswoman Jill Pawlik said the developer does not have "any one particular tenant in mind," but wants to have it ready as soon as possible to begin marketing it. "It's a spec building," she said. "We know downtown real estate is hot, so we want to get the building ready for that."

The project has already been approved by the city, Uniland said in its application. But the high labor and materials costs means that "financial assistance is needed to make the proposed project feasible and to obtain financing," the developer said, confirming that it will likely not pursue the plan without the tax breaks.

Costs include $4.496 million for renovation; $2.56 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment; $538,184 in professional fees; and $190,281 in other costs.

The project will be funded with $1.42 million in developer equity and $6.46 million in bank loans. Uniland is seeking $48,426 in mortgage recording tax breaks, $330,922 in sales tax breaks, and an unspecified payment-in-lieu-of-taxes for the property through either the city or the ECIDA.

Four new full-time jobs will be created for the operation of the flexible office space and the cafe, but additional jobs are expected from the office users.

A public hearing on the request by Uniland's Buffalo High Technology Centre Inc. will be held at 10 a.m. July 1 at the ECIDA office at 95 Perry St. Public comment will be accepted through July 23.

If approved, officials hope to start work on Aug. 1 and finish by year's end.

The new project is part of Uniland's ongoing redevelopment of the entire Frey the Wheelman campus, which also included 520 and 525 Ellicott, as well as the Ellicott Station post office on Washington Street.

Uniland buys Washington Street post office

The developer already spent $5 million to build a new three-story brick-and-glass office facility at 520 Ellicott, with 23,000 square feet of space that houses a DaVita Healthcare kidney dialysis center and offices for Huron Consulting Group, as well as two other tenants. It's also planning to build a new post office at 695 Washington, to replace the outdated post office up the street that it will now redevelop.

It also had originally proposed a four-story, 79,346-square-foot brick-and-glass office building at 505 Ellicott, with floor-to-ceiling windows and covered, secure parking.


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