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SolarCity is 'going to change perception of Buffalo'

by chocieni
Fri, May 29th 2015 03:15 pm

The last time Dr. Alain Kaloyeros visited the RiverBend site, the 88-acre property was nothing more than a remediated for industrial site.

Eight months later the skeletal steel frame of the massive 1.2 million-square-foot manufacturing and research center for SolarCity Corp. is clearly taking shape along the South Park Avenue.

For Kaloyeros, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute president and CEO, it is a proud moment.

That SolarCity and its nearly $1.5 billion joint public- and private-sector investment is happening in South Buffalo largely to the efforts of Kaloyeros, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local leaders like Howard Zemsky, now Empire State Development chairman, president and CEO and Mayor Byron Brown.

It was that team, led by Kaloyeros and Cuomo, that convinced California-based SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY) and its predecessor. Silevo, to build the cutting-edge solar panel center in Buffalo. The project is the largest single development in the region's history and one that projects as many as 3,000 jobs and sets the stage for related high-tech investments in and around Buffalo.

"This is going to change the perception of Buffalo that people have," Kaloyeros said Friday morning during his first tour of the construction site since last September. "It looks stunning."

The project is a massive undertaking, overseen by crews from Buffalo's LPCiminelli, which is serving as the general contractor.

The building is the size of eight Home Depot stores. Four football fields could be laid end-to-end inside the building and fit in comfortably.

More than 14 million pounds of reinforced of steel is being used, enough to stretch from Buffalo to Disney World in Florida if laid end-to-end.

Just the "CUB" — or cubic utility building — that houses the mechanicals needed for the building is 250,000-square-feet, or nearly 79 percent larger than Catholic Health's recently-opened downtown Buffalo headquarters.

"This is a huge statement," Kaloyeros said. "This is exactly what we (Cuomo and himself) had in mind when we talked about using high tech as a big part of Buffalo's rebirth."

And, for an added measure, SolarCity is being constructed on the former Republic Steel site, home for one of Buffalo's long gone steel plants. For decades it was an abandoned industrial site that offered little hope.

Now, it is a remediated property and home to a building that will be deep in green and environmentally-friendly elements from using recycled materials and, of course, solar panels.

"It is poetic justice to turn a brownfield site into a greenfield poster child," Kaloyeros.

SolarCity has hired its first wave of employees with as many as 200 engineers and top executives expected to be hired by the end of the year. The building should be completed next year and manufacturing will be taking place by 2017. A full employment base should be on site by 2020.

 

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