ECHDC won't make play for waterfront site

May 10, 2013 Updated May 10, 2013 at 7:46 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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ECHDC won't make play for waterfront site

May 10, 2013 Updated May 10, 2013 at 7:46 AM EDT

While interest is growing among potential bidders for the nearly century-old Cargill Pool Elevator along Buffalo's waterfront, one agency has already determined it will not make a bid.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is very interested in who buys the 12.6-acre Fuhrmann Boulevard property, anchored by the circa 1925, 173-foot tall Cargill Pool Elevator, and wants to work closely with whoever buys the property. Acquiring the site, however, is not in the agency's budget.

The property is headed for the auctioneer's block on June 5 with Cash Realty & Auctions handling the deal.

"We won't be bidding," said Tom Dee, president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. "We do want to sit down and talk with whoever buys it."

Located next to Gallagher Beach, the property and grain mill have been largely vacant since 2009. It is owned by William Mackey, a retired Buffalo firefighter and former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Fred Langdon, two longtime friends. The pair ran South End Marina from the property for nearly 30 years.

Gallagher Beach is part of a nearly 300-acre Outer Harbor parcel that the ECHDC and City of Buffalo are jointly negotiating to acquire from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Gallagher Beach is expected to re-open this summer and is viewed as a major waterfront destination.

Last October, Mackey and Langdon allowed the ECHDC to use the elevator as a test for a grain mill lighting exhibit that it wants to bring to the waterfront, beginning next summer.

Mackey and Langdon bought the property, which includes direct access to Lake Erie in 1983. For many years, they used it as a boat storage and launch facility that run until 2009 when a fire destroyed much of the rigging equipment.

At its peak, the marina stored more than 130 boats.

The 66-silo grain mill was constructed in 1925 by Canadian interests who used it to store grain that was ultimately shipped to U.S. customers. In later years, it was owned by Cargill and then other interests before Langdon and Mackey bought it as a business investment in 1983.

Auctioneer Cash Cunningham said he expects a lot of interest from prospective bidders, especially with a long list of waterfront improvements either underway or planned.

"We are getting a lot of calls," Cunningham said.