An undisclosed bidder has purchased the colossal Cargill Pool Grain Elevator, adjacent to Gallagher Beach, for $475,000, outbidding at least three others at an auction Wednesday.
Attorney Robert Bencini, representing the buyer, said the new owner is undecided about what to do with the 174-foot-tall structure and the 12.2-acre-plot, which includes six acres of privately owned waterfront.
“They are talking about some kind of industrial-commercial-residential project that continues to expand the waterfront development plans,” said Bencini, who consulted with someone on a cellphone as the auction progressed.
“They need to do their due diligence on the integrity of the structure of the building. Either developing what’s existing here, adding onto it, taking some of it down – they’re not sure yet, but they’ve got some pretty exciting plans that the public will be excited to hear about shortly,” Bencini said.
The successful bidder, he said, “is a local concern that has both strong local ties and strong national ties across the country that has done very successful projects across the country and in Western New York.”
William J. Mackey initially expressed disappointment in the bid before accepting it several hours later. Mackey has owned the elevator – the only one that’s actually on the lake itself – with former Fire Commissioner Fred D. Langdon as part of South End Marina for 30 years. They purchased it from Cargill for $10,000 in 1983.
Auctioneer Cash Cunningham said there were seven registered bidders, at least four of whom submitted bids.
“It’s a very unusual piece of property, so you never really know. It’s a challenge to sell, and it’s a very, very, narrow market. I’ve been selling real estate for eons, and this is the first grain elevator I’ve ever done,” Cunningham said.
“The price is a reflection of what the true market value is. Here we have competitive purchasers, so it’s the true definition of an auction.”
The owners, who had tried to sell the grain elevator for as much as $3 million in the past, had hoped to get $1 million, Cunningham said.
Jeff Leavell, operations manager for Zoladz Construction Co., the runner-up, said the site had great potential but different options would have been studied before arriving at a decision on what to do. Zoladz worked on demolition of Memorial Auditorium.
“We might have utilized the grain elevator, or if we could have got by preservation, take it down and done some other type of use on it, a hotel or something along those lines,” Leavell said, referring to the Buffalo Preservation Board. “We would have looked at the possibility of utilizing it as it exists, but I’m not sure as far as that goes.”
Bob Hill, owner of Union Concrete and Construction, also bid more than $400,000 for the parcel. He said that he was used to tearing down concrete and had that in mind if he made the winning bid.
“There are questions as to whether you can take it down or not. I would like to make it disappear and do something real with it, but I don’t think the Tielman people in the city are going to love that,” Hill said, referring to preservationist Tim Tielman, who has often led the charge against demolishing historic structures in Buffalo.
Mackey said he and Langdon once considered putting a hotel or condominiums in the grain elevator, and they traveled to Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada to see successful examples. But they were never able to line up the investors needed to pull off such a project, which he said came with a price tag in the tens of millions.
“It’s still way out here on the peninsula, and I think of February when that weather is coming in and of those giant drifts. How do you run a hotel when maybe the road is closed?” Sandoro said.
The elevator was completed in 1925 by the Saskatchewan Cooperative Wheat producers. It was used by South End Marina as a marina and boat storage facility until a fire burned the boat mechanic shop in 2011.