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Proposed South Buffalo logistics hub faces delays

by Jonathan Epstein
Wed, Feb 26th 2020 09:00 am
The Buffalo News  [ View Original Article ]

Poor soil conditions and funding problems could delay plans for a proposed logistics hub in South Buffalo that would be tied in with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, stalling plans by Uniland Development Co. to purchase property for the project.

Amherst-based Uniland Development Co. is working with the Buffalo Niagara International Trade Gateway Organization to develop a shipping and receiving facility at the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park. The 40,000-square-foot operation would take shipments from the Port Authority by train, and load them onto trucks for delivery elsewhere.

The proposed transportation hub along Buffalo's waterfront at 255 Ship Canal Parkway would effectively turn Buffalo into an "inland port" location for the Port Authority, extending its reach closer to many of the Midwestern and Canadian destinations for shipments. That also saves shippers money and time, since they would otherwise have to either send a second driver from New York or pay for a hotel stay to comply with the regulatory limit on consecutive driving hours per person.

The goal is to relieve some of the stress and burden at New York Harbor, which is overwhelmed with the volume of large shipping containers coming in by boat, while at the same time giving more visibility to Buffalo as an alternative.

The logistics hub would take advantage of the city’s location within 500 miles of most major metro areas in the Northeast, Midwest and eastern Canada, while also bringing new jobs to the area. And it would give companies in Western New York and Southern Ontario more access to empty shipping containers to send their own products back out.

The developer agreed last April to buy 20.3 acres of land from the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. for $25,019 per acre, or $509,000 in all. The land is located on the eastern side of the park, between CertainTeed and Sonwil Distribution, and has direct access to CSX Rail's main line.

But officials didn't initially count on problems with what Slater termed "potentially squishy soils" below the surface.

Uniland had already extended the 180-day due diligence period six times, for a month each time, as allowed under the purchase contract. On Tuesday, BUDC agreed to Uniland's request to extend it further, through Aug. 31, and to waive the $2,000 monthly exclusivity fee that the developer has been paying since August.

BUDC President Peter Cammarata said part of the property was formerly home to the Shenango Steel Mold facility, and the back portion of that land was used to deposit "soils and spoils" from infrastructure development at the business park. Uniland's preliminary examination of the site revealed "soil conditions that may require deep foundations and a structural slab" before construction can begin, according to Cammarata and a memo from BUDC staff to the agency's board.

"That’s not to say that it can’t be built on, but it may be more expensive to build on," said Uniland Vice President Michael Montante.

The developer had planned to remediate the entire 20 acres under the state's voluntary Brownfield Cleanup Program to obtain tax credits. But Uniland unexpectedly learned from the state Department of Environmental Conservation that it may not be able to do so because the Shenango property also was a state Superfund cleanup site in the 1990s.

"As a result, we have potentially less tax credits and a more expensive site," Montante said.

"If there’s a way to do it, we’ll get it done," Montante said. "The numbers have to make sense for everyone involved, and that’s just what we’re trying to get to."

Two other projects are still pending at Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, including a high-tech cannabis campus for Zephyr Investors and Flora Buffalo and a planned $84 million advanced manufacturing facility for Thinking Robot Studios to customize and produce medical devices using 3D printing.

In other action Tuesday, BUDC:

  • Approved $1.313 million in four contracts for "core and shell" renovations to the Eastern Plant building of the former Houdaille Manufacturing facility – located at 541 E. Delavan Ave. in the Northland Corridor. The contracts are for cover roofing, framing, masonry and excavation work.
  • Approved $15,967 more for Gilbane Building Co. to finish preparing a 9,505-square-foot shed at 683 Northland for use by the Northland Workforce Training Center and Alfred State College as senior electrical labs.
  • Approved another $175,545 for Apollo Steel Corp. to repair "significant structural deficiencies ... in several places along the perimeter of the building" at 541 E. Delavan Ave. That includes the south, southwest and northwest corners of the building and the window lintels along the north facade. This is the second attempt for this phase of work, after BUDC last October rejected the previous round of bids because none of them had sufficient representation from minority or women-owned businesses and contractors. The funds will come primarily from a state Restore NY grant.
  • Authorized spending another $84,000 for Wendel Cos. and geotechnical subcontractor SJB to evaluate the fill material that would be used for redevelopment of LaSalle Park into the Ralph J. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, and to manage the state and federal environmental regulatory reviews for the project. The funding would come from a Wilson Foundation grant.
  • Agreed to advance $975,148 from the Wilson grant to the city to begin design development on the planned pedestrian bridge, which will be funded with $5 million from the Wilson Foundation, $7.5 million from the state and $3 million from the city.