Amherst IDA OKs Northtown expansion

September 27, 2013 Updated May 24, 2010 at 7:05 AM EDT

By Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink

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Amherst IDA OKs Northtown expansion

September 27, 2013 Updated May 24, 2010 at 7:05 AM EDT

Northtown Automotive Group's plans to renovate and enlarge a former Chrysler and Jeep dealership on Sheridan Drive will be the first part of a long-term plan to upgrade several of its area locations.

Northtown's plan for the $7.7 million conversion of the former Sheridan Chrysler/Jeep dealership to its expanded Lexus dealership cleared a significant hurdle Friday when the Amherst Industrial Development Agency approved a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes package.

The expanded dealership, which will jump to more than 35,000-square-feet from 17,000-square-feet, will see Northtown add 22 full- and part-time workers at the location while adding at least $1 million to its annual payroll at the site. During the 10-year PILOT period, Northtown will collectively receive approximately $536,000 in tax breaks.

"This will kick off a series of dominoes that will see us improve all our properties," Larry Schreiber, Northtown vice president told the AIDA directors.

Northtown owns several properties and dealerships along Sheridan Drive and Niagara Falls Boulevard.

James Allen, Amherst IDA executive director, said the PILOT fits with the agency's agenda of helping developers and landlords rehabilitate older properties.

"A lot of these have an economic development component, but there is also a community development component," Allen said. "Vacant land overgrown with weeds is not conducive for economic development."

Northtown, which operated the Chrysler/Jeep dealership for the past decade, moved to its existing Dodge dealership nearly two years ago under a mandate from Chrysler to consolidate its dealership locations. The building has been vacant since then and used for car storage.

Schreiber said Northtowns current Lexus dealership may be re-developed after it moves across the street to its new location.

"We have two alternative plans," Schreiber said. "One way or another, it will not be vacant."