Riverbend details still coming together

May 28, 2014 Updated May 28, 2014 at 8:26 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Riverbend details still coming together

May 28, 2014 Updated May 28, 2014 at 8:26 AM EDT

Soon. That's the short answer for when the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. expects to close on the deal to sell a significant portion of the Riverbend Commerce Park to the Fort Schuyler Management Corp., the state-affiliated agency that will serve as the landlord for a pair of high-tech, green-energy California-based companies that want to start operations in the city.

Last month, the BUDC directors unanimously agreed to sell 88.24 acres of land within Riverbend to Fort Schuyler for $2.5 million. The property will house a 275,000-square-foot complex that will be home to Soraa and Silveo and trigger a $1.5 billion public- and private-sector investment that will create at least 850 permanent jobs.

One of the last details needed before a closing date can be set is the creation of an association within Riverbend that will pay for basic maintenance of the commerce park including such services as snow removal and landscaping. The association is not much different than ones established for residential condo projects or other commercial office parks when the tenants or occupants share the maintenance and operations costs.

"We're all interested in getting this closed as quickly as possible," said Peter Cammarata, BUDC president. "The park association is one of the pieces we need at closing."

Cammarata said he expects all the necessary legal work will be completed in the next few weeks.

"Needless to say, there's a lot of interest in closing this deal as quickly as possible," Cammarata said.

Fort Schuyler has agreed to pay $28,300 per acre, as per a deal negotiated last year between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Byron Brown,

The 180-acre Riverbend property was once the site of Republic Steel. After the Fort Schuyler deal is completed and others are initiated, approximately 65 acres of raw land will remain in the commerce park.

The Buffalo High Tech Manufacturing & Innovation Hub, one of the largest development projects in the city's history, will anchor a development that will house Soraa and Silveo.

Silveo develops solar panels while Soraa produces LED lighting equipment.

Soraa and Silveo, that have pledged to invest $1.5 billion and potentially create 850 permanent jobs when their research and development facilities - the Buffalo Green Energy Innovation & Commercialization Hub - opens. Combined, the two firms may employ more than 1,200 workers, depending on various factors.

Environmental studies on the property are underway and construction on the complex is expected to start later this summer. Plans have yet to be formally submitted to the Buffalo Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals for review. Officials expect that process to begin soon. LPCiminelli, the project's general contractor, is already on site doing some preliminary testing.

Fort Schuyler Management helped develop and manage the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering campus in Albany. It is working closely with Buffalo officials on several developments including finding a downtown home for an IBM information technology hub that could see as many as 500 people hired. Sites for the IBM project are currently being reviewed.

National Grid is prepping for securing more electrical output for the site.

Besides the 850 permanent jobs, mostly high-tech and science-based in nature, the project is expected to create 550 construction industry jobs.

To land the companies, New York state is investing $225 million from the Buffalo Billion fund for the project.

Soraa and Silveo represent a concerted effort by state and local leaders to have Buffalo emerge as a cutting edge, high tech hub serving both on its own and as an economic development companion to Albany's SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

The Soraa and Silveo deals are considered one of the largest local pendulum-swinging, economic development deals to be made in recent memory.

Soraa will be shifting R&D and manufacturing operations from a plant it has in California's Silicon Valley to Buffalo. Soraa, alone, will be investing $750 million and creating 375 jobs initially at the Riverbend plant.

Silevo, also based in Silicon Valley, has also pledged to invest $750 million and create 475 jobs.

Both companies are expected to establish relationships with the University at Buffalo.

Technically, the Riverbend building housing the two companies will be owned by the State University of New York Research Foundation but Soraa and Silveo will be subject to claw-back penalties if they fall to meet job creation and private sector investment goals.

In all, the Riverbend park will house six buildings. The buildings size and scope will be tenant-driven and determined.

In addition to buying the land, Fort Schulyer has also agreed to pay BUDC $50,000 annually for maintenance and upkeep of the grounds around the building.