Officials hope to spring Riverbend soon

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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Officials hope to spring Riverbend soon

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM EDT

Just a few months after its dramatic announcement, both state and local officials say the plan to build a 90-acre high tech hub in Buffalo is moving ahead.

The clock is ticking and they expect to meet every deadline, officials said.

The park, set for a portion of the former Republic Steel property along South Park Avenue, will be home to a pair of high-tech, clean-energy firms. Collectively, the Buffalo High Tech Manufacturing Innovative Hub at Riverbend project, represents $1.5 billion in public- and private-sector investment and the potential to create 850 jobs initially, with, the potential of another 1,200 positions. The hub will be home to Soraa and Silveo, who will anchor the first 275,000-square-foot building that should be constructed and opened within the next 18 months.

"We expect site work to begin this spring," said Howard Zemsky, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council co-chair.

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

Soraa and Silevo 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 the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

"We are inspired by Albany's nano-based economy," Zemsky said while visiting that city's tech sites.

Soraa specializes in LED technology and will be shifting R&D and manufacturing operations from a plant it has in the 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. The company develops silicon solar cells and modules.

Both companies will have deep ties 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 investment goals.

In all, the Riverbend park will house six buildings. The buildings size and scope will be tenant-driven and determined. Last week, LPCiminelli and McGuire Development Co. were named by state officials as the designated developers for what it hopes is a long series of projects including Riverbend,

But, before work can begin, the Riverbend land must be sold by the city of Buffalo to the research foundation's affiliated Fort Schuyler Management Corp. Riverbend is owned by the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., the city's primary development agency.

Peter Cammaratta, BUDC president, said talks are progressing.

"Everybody wants to see this get in the ground this spring," he said.

Also, 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.

"We are working under a very tight timeline," said Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering senior vice president and chief executive officer.

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