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Plans to revitalize the Richardson Olmsted Complex got a boost Monday when the Erie County Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks for the $55 million project.

The agency approved nearly $8 million in incentives for the project, in the form of property and sales tax breaks. The complex – originally designed by H.H. Richardson and the site of the former Buffalo Psychiatric Center – will include a 90-room boutique hotel, conference and event space, and an architecture center. ECIDA board members praised the project for injecting new life into a historic property that has long sought a new purpose.

“This is a fantastic project,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “This is phenomenal for the city, the region, the surrounding neighborhood. I remember money first being put up by the state for this project when I was still in the New York State Senate, so it’s good to see all of the hard work that’s gone into it.”

Howard Zemsky, an ECIDA board member and president of the Richardson Center Corp., which is spearheading the project, abstained from voting on the incentives because of his service on the Richardson board. But he acknowledged the prolonged effort to bring the complex back to life.

“I think this has been a good six-plus years in the making,” he said.

Zemsky credited the city, county and ECIDA with supporting the effort to revitalize the Richardson complex, as well as the state for keeping its share of funding available amid “tough times in New York State.”

Monica Pellegrino Faix, executive director of the Richardson Center Corp., said the project at 400 Forest Ave. continues to move forward.

The Richardson group is working with an architectural design team that is designing the hotel, conference space and architecture center, she said, adding, “We’re partway through that process.”

Work is nearly complete on reconstruction of the South Lawn of the site, which Faix said will create a “welcoming, graceful entrance.”

ECIDA officials said the Richardson Olmsted Complex project met exceptions for guidelines for projects that have a retail component and that include a hotel. Retail and hotel projects have faced increased scrutiny for receiving tax breaks.

The project was determined to be in a “highly distressed area,” and the hotel fit an exception for “adaptive reuse” of a vacant property, officials said.

Also Monday, the ECIDA approved $388,000 in tax breaks to support Simmers Crane and Design’s move from leased space in the Town of Tonawanda to a planned new building at the former site of Spaulding Fibre in the City of Tonawanda. The new project is estimated at $1.7 million.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com