The anticipated sale or lease of two long-vacant former port buildings on Buffalo’s outer harbor could lead to more than 100 new jobs in Western New York, the state’s top economic development official for the region said Monday.
Sam Hoyt, regional president for Empire State Development Corp., said the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is negotiating with a potential tenant for Port Terminals A and B that could bring new employment to the waterfront property along Fuhrmann Boulevard.
Speaking at the monthly board meeting of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., Hoyt did not identify the potential tenant. He said an agreement could lead to either an outright purchase of the two buildings or a long-term lease.
Two sources said the potential tenant is one of two furniture makers that have expressed interest in the site, one local and one from out of town. But developer Howard Zemsky, NFTA chairman, said the options are much broader and that the number of jobs and nature of the transaction are still to be determined. “We’ve got a number of people interested, across a number of industries,” he said. “Our greatest interest is in manufacturing.”
In the meantime, state officials are moving forward with plans for an organized, open dialogue with the community about what to do with the much larger 130-acre property just to the north of the terminal buildings, to ensure it is put to good use. “It’s a very, very exciting time for the waterfront in Buffalo,” Hoyt said. “We’ve seen extraordinary success at Canalside, and the governor was anxious to build on that success and to extend it beyond just the inner harbor, but to go beyond to the outer harbor.”
Hoyt spoke just days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced an agreement for the state to take over most of the land that the NFTA has owned along Buffalo’s Lake Erie waterfront for more than half a century.
The 130-acre site will be assumed by the Erie Canal Harbor Developent Corp., a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp. Hoyt said it’s “guaranteed” to have “public access throughout” but will likely include a mix of public parkland, “passive recreational” use and some elements of commercial, residential or mixed-use development. He said the governor prefers a combination of public space and private development, but “he has made it clear that he wants the public to decide.”
The state plans to hire a consultant or planning firm to facilitate broad input not only from the immediate neighborhood but also from the suburbs, developers and the business community, Hoyt said. He said he hopes the discussions can start by year-end.
Separately, ECHDC reached an agreement with Canalside Community Alliance, a group of 60 community organizations, on a set of “high-road” principles for waterfront development.
The principles, which represent a target for the state agency to aim for, call for “quality jobs,” opportunities for local businesses and employees, and environmental sustainability. Among other things, the agreement calls for paying a “living wage” to employees of ECHDC and to employees of businesses with at least a $50,000 contract with ECHDC and more than 30 employees. Also, construction contractors with ECHDC must pay “prevailing” wages. It also sets a target of 50 percent local business at Canalside.
“We hope this can serve as a model or template for future agreements, to make sure we have a large economic ripple for the projects that we undertake,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, who helped spearhead the discussions that led to the agreement.