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Buffalo company seeks tax break for redevelopment of Falls buildings

A Buffalo company with a $3 million redevelopment plan for two nearly vacant buildings in downtown Niagara Falls has applied for a sales tax exemption from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

SJI Main LLC, which manages more than 200 apartments in Buffalo and the Town of Niagara, acquired the three-story buildings at 530 and 552 Main St. for $750,000 in April, according to Niagara County land records. SJI Main plans to convert them into 42 apartments and five commercial spaces.

"The buildings have been empty for the last four years," said Divya Tandon, the company owner. "We want to be part of the revitalization in Niagara Falls."

One dental office is the only functioning tenant in the buildings at Main and Third streets, across the intersection from the Cannon Block.

Penn Terra, a Canadian developer that plans to construct student housing on the Cannon Block, demolished the structures there earlier this year.

"That's what we like about it, that it is in a prominent location," said Pundit Tandon, Divya Tandon's husband.

He also cited the city's repaving of part of Third Street and the plans for the redevelopment of numerous buildings on Main Street as reasons for going forward with the company's plans.

"I certainly think this will be a keystone property," said Keri D. Callocchia, SJI Main's attorney. "You can see the former grandeur that was there."

An exemption on sales tax on building materials and furnishings would save SJI Main $63,680 on its $3 million project, the NCIDA staff estimated.

Eight jobs would be created within three years, according to the application.

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The buildings were formerly owned by the Pallone family, which held them for more than 80 years, according to the application.

The smaller of the two buildings, which includes the dental office, will hold 12 apartments and take about a year to renovate, Divya Tandon said. Then work will begin on the larger building. The entire project would take about 30 months to complete.

The NCIDA had to cancel Wednesday's meeting because not enough members could attend, but the SJI project will be on the agenda for the next session, yet to be scheduled.

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