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Lactalis plans dual office, kitchen expansions in South Buffalo

Lactalis plans dual office, kitchen expansions in South Buffalo

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Mozzarella cheese is poured into a machine that will form it into its block shape at the Lactalis plant in South Buffalo.

If an office expansion and three dozen new jobs weren't enough, Lactalis America Group is cooking up a second new project in South Buffalo – a demonstration and test kitchen for local residents and chefs to sample its new cheese products.

The U.S. subsidiary of France's Group Lactalis, which owns Sorrento Lactalis, plans to construct a new one-story building on four lots on Leland Drive, directly across the street from the company's local headquarters and manufacturing operations.

That's separate from a 5,006-square-foot addition that the company plans to construct on the back of its existing 26,865-square-foot complex, which already consists of four structures on 1.1 acres at 2376 South Park Ave.

Designed by architect John R. Haas of North Collins, that $1.1 million addition would include nine closed offices, a meeting room and an open office area. And it would support the company's plans to add about 35 to 40 new jobs in its headquarters, which already houses about 150 of the company's 600 employees.

By contrast, the proposed new 4,284-square-foot building on Leland would house some of the growing company's 600 employees, with conference rooms and offices. But it would also include an "expert sensory panel center," where its products can be taste-tested. Additionally, there will be a professional culinary kitchen for chefs to demonstrate their skills and create new recipes for their restaurants.

The $1.5 million project on Leland would also include 107 new parking spaces, plus a 6,230-square-foot green space, two picnic areas and a 10,000-square-foot retention pond for drainage.

"We really are landlocked, and with the growth of our company, a lot of our employees have had to park on the residential side streets," said Lactalis General Counsel Suzanne Risman. "If we get this zoning amendment, we can put some much needed parking behind Leland and clear up some of the congestion on side streets." 

New perimeter lighting, a 6-foot fence, two crosswalks and landscaping are also incorporated in the plan, which will retain "many of the mature trees" now standing on the 2.48-acre site, Risman said.

"We're very sensitive to the fact that we're an industrial manufacturer smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood," she said. "We will maintain a lot of the greenspace."

The public got its first taste of the new proposal on Monday evening, as the Buffalo Planning Board backed a rezoning of the four contiguous properties at 46, 68, 70 and 74 Leland. Those residential parcels – which Lactalis has owned for years – are located between South Park and Zollars avenues, and Lactalis wants them reclassified as light industrial, to be consistent with its manufacturing plant, Risman said.

Homes on three of them were razed several years ago when the company bought them, while the fourth – which has been vacant for two years – would be demolished as part of this project. The company also owns three residential parcels on Zollars behind the area on Leland that is intended to become greenspace.

Both Risman and Common Councilmember Christopher Scanlon said neighbors are aware of the plan and have not objected. 

The headquarters expansion requires three variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which tabled the project at its last meeting. However, that plan may get redesigned to shift the addition from the rear to the front, along South Park Avenue, as preferred by Scanlon and Planning Board members for consistency with the Green Code.

Separately, the Planning Board approved a proposal by the Buffalo Fire Department to construct a new two-story fire station for Engine 25 at 497 Southside Parkway, replacing the squat one-story brick building that's no longer adequate.

"The needs of firefighters have changed over the last few decades, so their fire house is outdated, and too small for their needs," said Bob Shephard of Stieglitz Snyder Architecture.

The new 17,495-square-foot brick-and-stone station would feature two sections and a decorative corner entrance tower. The front would be a one-story garage and apparatus room with four bays, but this time the overhead garage doors would face Seneca Street, not Southside. That provides better access and more room for the trucks to pull out before exiting onto the street.

The garage would be in front of a two-story rectangular support space, which would include the bunk rooms, offices, locker room, exercise room and dining room. There's also 20 secured parking spaces in the rear. The overall height would be 40 feet, although the peak of the roof is a little taller.

"It’s a much-needed improvement from the fire house that is currently there," said Planning Board member Martha Lamparelli. "This is really going to be welcomed in the neighborhood. It’s long overdue."

The Planning Board also backed special-use permits for a new tobacco shop at 797 Broadway, at the corner of Smith Street, and for Saw Min to open a new Japanese, Thai and Burmese restaurant in the former Taste of Asia, at 494 Elmwood Ave.

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  • Updated

Lactalis American Group has trucked 15,000 pounds of mozzarella products made at its South Buffalo plant to a food bank on Long Island. The shipment was delivered as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $25 million Nourish New York initiative, which provides funding to food banks to purchase surplus agricultural products in New York state and deliver them to people

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