At a time when it’s more difficult for retail developments – like doughnut shops, pizzerias and stores – to reap the benefits of tax breaks granted by industrial development agencies, Lancaster’s development arm is facing such a request from a fireplace business.
Fireplace Outlet, with two locations in the Northtowns, is looking to close its leased Transitown Plaza site in Clarence and open in a new spot in the Village of Depew within Lancaster, while keeping its Tonawanda store open.
The company has not filed a formal application, but is looking for tax breaks and other financial incentives as part of its $400,000 to $500,000 project, which includes the purchase of the Depew property from Milton Koutsandreas and $241,000 in renovations. The company employs six people and said the project could lead to at least four new jobs.
As quickly as Lancaster IDA consultant Paul R. Leone brought the idea up this week, he was just as quick to say he had trepidation, thinking the agency might have to consider saying “no.”
“Normally, I would have said ‘no’ because I consider it retail,” Leone told Lancaster IDA board members Tuesday.
Leone said he was told the 4,500-square-foot location at the former Atlantis Restaurant at 6095 Transit Road would include a showroom taking up 15 percent of the space.
IDAs are now faced with new restrictions the state put in place earlier this year for granting incentives to retail developments, stipulating that to be eligible for tax breaks, a project’s retail component must not occupy more than one-third of its total square footage.
However, after further talking with Fireplace Outlet owners, Leone told the agency’s board that company officials indicated the new site they are considering would largely be used for manufacturing and some assembly.
The project also would fall within adaptive reuse guidelines because the property has been vacant for several years; is in what officials consider a slum/blight area; and lies within an area targeted by the town for property improvements. As a result, the agency’s top brass are willing to take a hard look at it.
“That place is an eyesore on Transit Road,” Leone said. “I think it will be good for Transit Road.”
Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, who also is chairman of the town’s IDA, lauded the project, but with a degree of caution.
“The building is dilapidated and falling apart,” Fudoli said. “It’s taking a building that’s been vacant for well over 15 to 20 years. It’s creating a few jobs and getting rid of an eyesore.”
Becky Friedman, who owns Fireplace Outlet with her husband, Dan, said in an interview that the manufacturing component on site would be significant. “We would build on site – stone, brickwork, tile. We would build custom designs for our customers right at our location,” she said.