The state still hasn't legalized recreational use of marijuana, but developers still are planning to build a cannabis complex next to the Buffalo waterfront, not far from a proposed solar farm.
Officials with the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. are seeking to close out the sales of two major parcels in the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Center that would become the home to both projects.
Uniland Development Co. is planning to buy a 20.3-acre property at 255 Ship Canal Parkway, where it intends to erect a 5-megawatt solar panel facility.
The developer has said it expects the project – the first large-scale operation of its kind in the city – would produce enough power to supply electricity to about 800 households.
The site was originally slated to become a transportation, logistics and shipping hub for the Buffalo Niagara International Trade Gateway Organization, but Uniland shelved that proposal after concluding the soil couldn't easily support such a facility without deep foundations and prohibitive costs.
However, the land – which is part of the former Hanna Furnace property – must still be remediated under the state Brownfield Cleanup Program. Uniland has been talking to state officials about participating in the voluntary program, which BUDC agreed to this week as the property owner.
Uniland can conduct site testing, but no cleanup activities are permitted until it completes the purchase, expected by late April or early May.
Meanwhile, California-based Zephyr Investors and its partner, Flora California, still plan to purchase 72.4 acres at 310 Ship Canal and seven parcels on Laborers Way, where they plan to invest $200 million to create a high-tech marijuana-growing farm and manufacturing operation.
The complex, which would employ 500 to 1,000 workers, would also include manufacturing facilities to produce a wide range of products, such as oils, lotions, balms, creams, pills, food and beverages, as well as traditional joints.
The rest of the operation would include space for an educational program with Erie Community College, medical research with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and a new business incubator.
But the plan is dependent on the state legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. Such legislation, which has failed to pass for the last two years, is now "moving in a pretty positive direction" in Albany, said BUDC President Peter Cammarata. Zephyr has until July 31 to complete its due diligence on the land acquisition.
"We hope this is another closing that can take place in 2021," Cammarata said.
BUDC is also moving forward with projects at the Northland Corridor on the East Side and the former LaSalle Park on Buffalo's West Side, where the agency is overseeing the work to convert it into the new Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.
At Northland, BUDC is getting a $200,000 grant from Empire State Development Corp. to help plan, design and create a solar and microgrid project that will benefit the light-industrial hub and the surrounding neighborhood. Frey Electric Construction Co. will be doing the work.
Officials are also negotiating with Bank on Buffalo for a potential branch location at Northland Central, at 683 Northland Ave., while Garwood Medical Devices expects to finish building out its space in the "Red Shed" by April 1. BUDC and the city also completed an exchange of land at the corner of Fillmore and Northland avenues.