Months after the collapse of plans to purchase and redevelop a former Olean elementary school into a new regional operations and mortgage loan processing facility, Community Bank System is trying again, this time with property owned by St. Bonaventure University.
The DeWitt-based bank is negotiating to buy a roughly eight-acre parcel of land on Route 417, or East State Street, that comes through the Town of Allegany into the City of Olean. The property, part of a much larger 28-acre site owned by the university, is across the road from the St. Bonaventure campus.
Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Corey Wiktor said the bank’s tentative plans would call for a 35,000-square-foot facility, to house about 200 existing workers now in the current 20,000-square-foot operations center, as well as up to 30 new jobs that would be created over the next three to five years. But he also said the details are not yet finalized.
The bank filed an application for tax incentives with the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, and the proposal was scheduled to come before the agency’s board last week. But it was tabled at the last minute at the bank’s request, because some final legal glitches in the purchase were still being ironed out. Those have been resolved and the closing is expected shortly.
“They’re working on some details on finishing the deal with the land,” Wiktor said. “They needed additional time to negotiate with the potential seller.”
Brian Donahue, the company’s Olean-based executive vice president and chief banking officer, said the company would not comment “at this time,” but said that “I am optimistic a joint release with (Community Bank & St. Bonaventure) will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks.”
However, Wiktor also said that the bank has not “committed 100 percent” to any one site yet. “I know the bank is kind of vetting out different options and hopefully going to be settling or closing the deal on this parcel when they can,” he said. “The IDA will stand ready when we’re needed to help see this project go forward. … This fits our policy, it fits our legislation, it fits our economic development thrust.”
The next board meeting for the CCIDA is March 18.
Community Bank is a growing regional bank with $7.3 billion in assets and a network of 180 branches stretching from Chautauqua County through the Southern Tier, Central New York and northeastern Pennsylvania and up to Canton near the Canadian border. That includes 34 branches in Western New York, including southern Erie County, plus an investment management firm in Williamsville and a brokerage firm in Lockport.
The new plan follows the failure of the bank’s original effort to purchase the former Ivers J. Norton Elementary School on Henley Street from the Olean City School District for $205,001.
But the deal fell apart after the architectural estimates for the renovation work and expected additional off-site parking came in much higher than expected, in part because of the need to spend about $650,000 to install air conditioning. The bank also would have had to buy surrounding property, and the building still would not have had room for future growth. As a result, total costs had soared above $5 million, well above original projections of $2.5 million.
The vacant school is now being purchased by Epic Church, which submitted the highest bid for the property, at $142,000.