City of Buffalo to Sell Webster Block

February 15, 2012 Updated Feb 15, 2012 at 9:23 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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February 15, 2012 Updated Feb 15, 2012 at 9:23 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - The Webster Block, a prime piece of waterfront property in downtown Buffalo, will go up for sale next month, Mayor Byron Brown said in his State of the City speech on Wednesday.

The parcel, currently a parking lot in front of First Niagara Center, was once home to the scrapped Adelphia Tower. More recently, HSBC Bank eyed the property as an alternative to its tower, but abandoned those plans.

"This 1.9 acre site ... is the most sought-after piece of land in Buffalo," said Brown before 1,000 supporters and business leaders who gathered to hear the speech at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

"Later this month, my administration will issue a request for proposals for developers to present ideas on how to develop this block," he said.

Brown would not detail what the city has planned for the property, only calling it a link between the downtown business district and Canal Side waterfront neighborhood.

"I have many ideas but we want to challenge the business community to give us their ideas," Brown added.

When HSBC Bank was thinking about relocating to the Webster Block, Brown struck a deal with the Buffalo Common Council to use the proceeds of the sale to improve neighborhood business districts.

Council president Rich Fontana thinks that arrangement should still apply.

"That was two summers ago," he said. "Right now it's tabled in the council. We don't have the six votes necessary to sell the Webster Block at this point -- we didn't then, we probably don't now."

"And I'm hoping that vote will also include the million dollars per neighborhood cause those funds were imperative to sections of the city like Lovejoy Street that need the money," Fontana said.

But the mayor has different plans for the money if the plot is sold.

"That money is still not on the table because at the time of that announcement... that proposal did not go forward," he said.

The council would have to approve the sale of the Webster Block.