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Rich Products expands on Niagara Street

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Oliver Gear-1114 Niagara

The former Oliver Gear facilities on Niagara Street.

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Rich Products Corp. is adding to its real estate holdings near its West Side headquarters campus, snapping up a former manufacturing complex down the street that used to make gears.

The nondairy products company, through its Jenesis Development affiliate, paid $1.05 million to buy the former A.F. Oliver Gear & Machine Co. buildings at 1112-1114 Niagara St. from the subsidiary of Gear Motions. It was originally listed for $1.45 million.

The L-shaped property on the west side of the street includes 32,000 square feet of building space on 1.13 acres of land, overlooking the Niagara River in back, according to a listing by Hanna Commercial Real Estate brokers Joseph Deck and Scott Mason. The property is zoned for light manufacturing and located in an Opportunity Zone, across from Allied Mechanical and less than a block from Rich's corporate offices.

The purchase includes a 19,380-square-foot, art deco-style building constructed in 1931. According to the Buffalo Architecture and History website, the one-story, flat-roofed brick structure features a central main entrance surrounded by symmetrical side bays and windows, with a small parapet as well as stone panels and bands carved with intricate ornamentation, friezes and molding.

The property also includes a 12,600-square-foot light industrial building, with a 2,180-square-foot office, a "newer" roof and HVAC system, two cranes, basement storage and four overhead doors.

Jonathan Dandes, Rich’s corporate vice president of governmental relations and special projects, said the company doesn’t have any specific plans for the property as yet, but saw the purchase as “great business sense.”

“Our purchase of Oliver Gear is consistent with what we’re doing all along Niagara Street, which is the building out of the block and continued purchase of these properties when they become available, because it’s our home,” Dandes said. “It’s our world headquarters, and our expectation is that at some point we’ll develop a significant and specific use for that particular site.”

He also noted significant new investments along Niagara, including by the city in the streetscape. “We are thrilled at the growth and development right along Niagara Street,” he said. “So this is consistent with what our position has been all along. When that property became available, it was something we jumped at quickly.”

Gear Motions, which supplies cut and ground gears for original equipment manufacturers around the world, is working with Zaepfel Development to build a 55,943-square-foot manufacturing facility on vacant land on Pirson Parkway in Tonawanda, adjacent to the Youngmann Expressway, to bring Oliver Gear and its other divisions under one roof.

Another Niagara Street deal

Meanwhile, further down the street, Buffalo investor Dr. Ezra Bernstein's JZ Niagara LLC of Buffalo paid $865,000 to buy a two-story mixed-use building at 465 Niagara St. from investor T. Giles Kavanagh's Berner LLC.

The 9,804-square-foot tan brick commercial building with red accents features six first-floor storefronts and six upstairs apartments, all leased, with a large rear lot for parking or redevelopment. It was built in 1916, on just shy of a half-acre of land. Tenants include Boost Mobile, Lycramobile, Kings of the West and Karibu Market.

465 Niagara

465 Niagara St.

Bernstein is a Buffalo native who attended the University at Buffalo for two years before transferring to Brandeis University, where he received a bachelor's degree in biology and then a medical degree from the University of California-Los Angeles.

He also co-founded Aura Media AI, an online media company which uses advanced technology for publishers to measure video image and sound content frame-by-frame so that advertisers can target users more precisely.

Bernstein said he recently sold some residential properties in South Buffalo, and used a tax-free exchange under federal law to invest in the Niagara property, his first mixed-use venture. He plans to renovate two of the residential units and the commercial space.

"That area, I just feel, is in the early parts of revitalization," he said, citing the infrastructure work along Niagara and conversion of LaSalle Park into the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, as well as the proximity to D'Youville College, Allentown, the Elmwood Village and downtown Buffalo. "I hope it continues to be on the rise."

Bernstein also said he hopes to eventually do a new residential project on the triple lot in back, although his initial plans are for a community park. "I'm still open at this point," he said.

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Related to this story

Gear Motions has acquired Niagara Gear Corp. in the Town of Tonawanda, adding to its family of companies. The sale price was not disclosed. Syracuse-based Gear Motions also owns Oliver Gear and Pro-Gear in Buffalo, and Nixon Gear in Syracuse. Matthew Babisz, who bought Niagara Gear in 1974, is retiring after about 60 years in the industry. Gear Motions

Rich Products Corp. is considering how to get more involved in the redevelopment of Niagara Street. The Buffalo-based maker of Coffee Rich and other nondairy products re-acquired its former Buffalo plant property earlier this year, and is now seeking permission from the city Preservation Board to demolish the old buildings on the site. The 3.67-acre property is located diagonal

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