Directors of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency agreed Tuesday to provide just under $1 million in tax breaks to a pair of related projects in North Buffalo by developer Rocco Termini and a separate effort by a prominent furniture company to buy and expand a new headquarters in Clarence.
First, the ECIDA authorized $229,000 in savings for Termini’s Houk Lofts LLC at 316 and 320 Grote St. in Buffalo.
That adaptive reuse project entails the $6.72 million conversion of the former Houk Wire Wheel Co. manufacturing plant into 20 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments, with monthly rents of $900 to $1,250.
The apartments will be aimed at young professionals and those associated with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, who may be attracted by such conversions. The building also would house a high-end hair salon and tattoo studio.
It’s part of Termini’s effort to create a “walkable, sustainable neighborhood within a two-block area,” which is near Buffalo State College, a Wegmans store, a Target store and Termini’s related Distillery Lofts LLC project, according to ECIDA documents. The goal is to turn the long-neglected neighborhood into an “urban oasis” by creating a historic urban neighborhood with loft-style apartments in mixed-use buildings, while encouraging the development of walkways, landscaped areas and bike paths in the area from Grote Street to Hertel Avenue.
“This is a neighborhood that is highly distressed,” Termini said at a recent public hearing on the project, which had prompted some dismay from Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, who lived in the neighborhood. “It’s really in desperate shape to be redeveloped and we hope this will be a catalyst for redeveloping this entire area.”
The 28,000-square-foot building, which is 100 years old, has been vacant for 15 years. Houk once made wire wheels there for the Pierce Arrow plant and other carmakers.
Plans call for Termini’s Signature Development to spend $4.2 million on renovations, $230,000 on the acquisition of the historic building, $150,000 on equipment and $2.14 million on “soft costs,” such as architectural and engineering expenses. Only four permanent jobs will be created.
The tax relief includes $45,000 in mortgage tax breaks and $184,000 in sales tax savings, but no county property tax cut. The city will grant a 12-year property tax abatement, totaling about $600,000.
However, the project will pay $137,000 in county taxes and $121,000 in city taxes during the abatement period, versus $981 and $5,220 per year now.
Termini’s second project, called The Distillery Lofts, seeks to spend $20 million to convert the former FWS Furniture Co. store at 1738 Elmwood Ave. into a mixed-use building with about 46 market-rate apartments, 22,000 square feet of call center, technology and general office space, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and a distillery. About 30 permanent jobs are envisioned.
The 106,025-square-foot building, which previously housed the Taylor Signal Co. before FWS, has been underused for years, as FWS had been downsizing for a while. Termini expects to spend $725,000 on the acquisition, $14.275 million on renovations and $5 million on soft costs. ECIDA documents note that the historic renovation entails unique spending, such as replacing 130 windows at a cost of $9,000 each, or $1.1 million in all.
The ECIDA approved $72,000 in mortgage savings and $612,000 in sales tax savings, but no county property tax relief. The city is expected to grant a 12-year tax abatement. Currently, the property pays $2,178 in county taxes and $11,586 in city taxes, but would pay $261,000 and $231,000, respectively, during the abatement period.
Finally, Kittinger Furniture Co. received approval for tax breaks to aid the company’s move to Clarence from Buffalo, where it has leased 60,000 square feet in Buffalo’s Tri-Main Building for 17 years. Founded in 1866, Kittinger makes high-end furniture. It was the main supplier of reproductions for Colonial Williamsburg from 1937 to 1990 and has made furniture for the White House since 1970.
The company expects to begin construction next month on the $1.365 million project, which will see it renovate and expand a 22,000-square-foot former roller skating rink at 4675 Transit Road, behind the Eastern Hills Mall, and convert it to a manufacturing plant, with a 10,000-square-foot addition.
Kittinger will spend $575,000 on the acquisition, $350,000 on new construction, $125,000 on renovations and $315,000 on soft costs. The ECIDA approved $20,000 in sales tax savings and $41,000 in property tax breaks over 10 years.
“We’re happy that it’s been approved. Now we can go ahead with the move out to Clarence. It’s something we hope can help sustain the business,” said Diane Rey, Kittinger’s controller.
The move from the sixth floor of Buffalo’s Tri-Main Building, likely to be completed by June, also puts the company closer to its retail store on Transit Road. Kittinger employs 15 people today and could add 10 more workers.
Granting tax incentives to a company moving from one community to another within Erie County has generated controversy, but Clarence IDA representatives have said the Kittinger project meets the agency’s eligibility. The company explored seven sites within the city, as well as in Cheektowaga and even Ellicottville.
Clarence Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr. lauded the effort that town planners and officials put into the project.
“I’m glad the ECIDA voted it through. It’s a wonderful project,” said Hartzell, who also serves as chairman of the Clarence IDA.
News Staff Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org