IDA sets hearing that could lead to AM&A's redevelopment

July 23, 2012 Updated Jul 23, 2012 at 6:55 AM EDT

By James Fink, Business First

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IDA sets hearing that could lead to AM&A's redevelopment

July 23, 2012 Updated Jul 23, 2012 at 6:55 AM EDT


In a prelude to what may be the long-awaited redevelopment of the former AM&A's flagship store in downtown Buffalo, developer Rocco Termini has formally asked the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for an incentive package that may help finance the project.

The IDA will hold a public hearing on July 30 to consider Termini's request, with a formal vote by the board expected in either its August or September meeting.

The hearing marks the first step in what officials hope is the road to bring the vacant downtown building back to life, ending nearly two decades of uncertainty along with several false starts.

Termini, who just completed a $42 million renovation of the former Hotel Lafayette, said he and his investment group want to spend approximately $60 million to renovate the eight-story, 350,000-square-foot building into a mixed-use facility with a combination of hotel rooms, apartments, retail and offices.

The project is expected to be fast tracked when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs pending legislation in Albany that will increase historic tax credit benefits from a $5 million cap to a $12 million cap. Both the Assembly and Senate approved the measure.

"We're doing this (the IDA hearing and board review) in preparation for if and when Gov. Cuomo signs the bill," Termini said. "I'm just trying to line up all the pieces in advance of that."

The AM&A's building, save for a brief run as Taylor's department store, has been vacant since The Bon-Ton Stores closed the location in March 1995. Its boarded-up state has made the building a major urban eyesore.

The building is currently owned by a Long Island investment group.

Besides the Termini project, the IDA has scheduled three other public hearings -- two of which are for high-profile downtown redevelopment efforts. The hearings are:

• To consider a request from a Benderson Development Co. affiliate, Harbor District Associates LLC and Harbor Lodging LLC, for incentives to help with the $30 million transformation of the former Donovan State Office Building into the One Canalside Building.

A hearing is set for July 31, with the ECIDA board of directors expected to consider the project when they meet on Aug. 20.

The eight-story, 165,000-square-foot building is considered an anchor for the Canalside District in the lower Main Street portion of downtown. The building is slated to be anchored by a 96-room Courtyards by Marriott hotel and the offices of the Phillips Lytle LLP law firm.

Benderson began renovation work on the building last summer. The building is expected to be tenant-ready by late 2013.

• An affiliate of the Hamister Group is also seeking an incentive package for its proposed $40 million makeover of the largely vacant Tishman Building on Main Street near Lafayette Square into a mixed-use facility anchored by a 123-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel, 18 market-rate apartments, the firm's corporate offices and small amount of retail and restaurant space.

The hearing is set for July 30. The IDA directors will likely also consider the project during their Aug. 20 meeting.

The Hamister Group has had the building under contract from its current New York City-based owners for the past year.

The deal is contingent on the Hamister Group receiving incentives from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and the Empire State Development Corp.

Officials are praising the deal for bringing stability to the building.

• Niagara Lubricants is seeking incentives to help finance renovations and the purchase of new equipment for its Chandler Street operations.

The IDA set a July 31 hearing regarding the incentive package and the full board is expected to vote on the deal on Aug. 20.

All of the hearings will be held at the ECIDA offices at 143 Genesee St. in Buffalo.

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