Developer Sam Savarino and investor FFZ Holdings are asking the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for sales and mortgage tax breaks to transform the sprawling former F.N. Burt Co. factory into a mixed-use facility that Savarino says will “rescue an important and historic community asset.”
Savarino and the three principals of FFZ – David and Dennis Franjoine and Robert Zuchlewski – want to develop the 324,000-square-foot complex, which has sat empty at 500 Seneca St. for nine years.
They envision a combination of traditional office space, a nonprofit job training facility and back-office administration for community organizations.
The 113-year-old facility is a complex of joined buildings, initially made of heavy timber and later reinforced concrete. It was used as a paper box manufacturing plant and corporate offices from 1900 to 1959, and New Era Cap Co. later used it to make and embroider baseball hats from 1986 to 2004.
According to the ECIDA application, the $35.2 million adaptive reuse project would include 191,794 square feet of Class A office space. There would also be 20,000 square feet of manufacturing, processing or distribution space, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, and 102,225 square feet of “special-use” below-market office space for community and cultural organizations, along with 1,000 secured parking spaces.
The facility would have a multistory interior green atrium area, an enclosed exterior courtyard, an on-site fitness center and a cafe. Streetscape improvements would be extended from Larkin District further toward downtown.
The building would house a new nonprofit job training program – the Buffalo Collaborative Opportunities & Management Enterprises – and a new “management services organization” that would provide collaborative office administration and support for nonprofits throughout Erie County, including the Lt. Col Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY, the University Area Community Development Corporation and the Old First Ward Community Association.
FFZ’s principals, who run Frontier Industrial Services and Frontier Group of Companies, have pledged to relocate their national demolition and construction firm from the Cobblestone District to 60,450 square feet of space at 500 Seneca.
However, FFZ notes it has many properties outside the state and even abroad where it claims it could operate in more “favorable” tax and regulatory structures. The company “could choose to relocate there, monitor or sell-off our investments here and re-invest in other metropolitan areas.”
The developers are also seeking federal and state tax credits. Twenty-five jobs would be created and 48 retained, paying an average salary of $83,333 for existing jobs and $50,000 for new ones, with a total payroll of $1 million, the application states. If approved, work would start in February, and be completed by the end of 2017. The project will be considered at a public hearing on Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. at ECIDA’s offices at 95 Perry St., Suite 403. Public written comments can be submitted until Jan. 28.