NFTA considers 2 bids for Small Boat Harbor

February 8, 2012 Updated Feb 8, 2012 at 8:46 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

February 8, 2012 Updated Feb 8, 2012 at 8:46 AM EDT

Two local firms - Smith Boys Marine and Man O Trees Inc. - have emerged as the bidders for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's Small Boat Harbor property.

Citing confidentiality clauses, representatives from both companies could not comment on their respective bids, including how much they offered from the prime waterfront property. The NFTA last fall requested separate bids on the Small Boat Harbor and an adjoining 60-acre property that houses two large, but empty industrial buildings. Smith Boys and Man O Trees were the only entities to file bids by the Nov. 30 deadline for the Small Boat Harbor.

No bids were received for the 60-acre parcel, listed as 901 Fuhrmann Boulevard.

The NFTA Board of Commissioners are expected to review the bids during a Feb. 16 closed-door executive session. A decision on the site's future could come during the NFTA's Feb. 27 board meeting.

The NFTA wants to dissolve itself from operation the harbor as it seeks to generate more revenues in light of an anticipated $15 million budget deficit in its 2012-2013 fiscal year as state operating assistance for the authority continues to be slashed. NFTA officials estimate the Small Boat Harbor needs $39 million in repairs and the Terminal A and Terminal B buildings sit virtually empty.

Smith Boys is one of the region's largest marine sales operations and marinas. The North Tonanwanda-based company also has operations in Syracuse, Rochester, Canandaigua Lake, Consesus Lake and Chautauqua Lake.

Man O Trees, recently moved from West Seneca to Ganson Street in Buffalo. The company handles landscaping and other forms of development. The Buffalo Urban Development Corp., two years ago, selected Man O Trees to supply the trees and plantings around the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.

Sources said the focus of both bids center on the 1006-slip Small Boat Harbor, which also includes the Dug's Dive restaurant, operated by local businessman Tucker Curtin. The 60 acres of prime, mostly vacant Lake Erie waterfront real estate includes the massive Terminal A and Terminal B buildings, which collectively total more than 576,000 square feet.

Renewed marketing efforts by the NFTA has made the Small Boat Harbor a popular destination for boaters.

"The sale, if the commissioners approve it, is another big step in turning Buffalo's waterfront from an industrial destination to a recreational one," Curtin said.

Curtin opened Dug's Dive six years ago. His lease for the restaurant as a three-year renewal option that kicks in next spring.

Curtin said he'd prefer to keep running the restaurant and work with whoever is awarded the bid.

Dug's Dive is typically open from early spring through mid-October. Curtin said he'd like to keep it open all year, if possible.

"I'm really looking forward to taking it to the next level," he said.

The NFTA has controlled that waterfront land since 1965.

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