Gearing Up for Gates Circle

Gearing up for project at Gates

Redevelopment of former Millard Fillmore Hospital site is a mammoth job, and a $2 million loan through the ECIDA will help get the ball rolling

BY: Matt Glynn (

Redeveloping the former Millard Fillmore Hospital site at Gates Circle in Buffalo is a mammoth job, but the project will take an important small step soon.

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency's lending arm Wednesday approved a $2 million loan to Gates Circle Holdings LLC. TM Montante, the lead developer, formed Gates Circle Holdings to oversee $13 million in demolition, abatement and remediation at the site.

The $2 million loan from the Regional Development Corp. will go toward removing ruptured underground storage tanks and contaminated soil on the property, said J. Timothy Vaeth, president of TM Montante Development.

It's the sort of unglamorous but necessary work that the developer must complete before the project's bigpicture vision can unfold. Plans call for the site to include a Canterbury Woods retirement community, a YMCA community center, 500 residential apartments and a grocery store. The entire project could exceed $100 million and revitalize a site whose future was unclear when Kaleida Health moved the hospital's operations to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Vaeth said that it was important to complete the remediation work this year, since TM Montante is counting on receiving state brownfield tax credits to cover the costs. The tax credit program is set to expire at the end of the year, and while there are proposals to extend it, that is not yet ensured. TM Montante next week will discuss demolition of the complex's power plant with the city's Preservation Board. And plans call for demolishing the hospital tower this summer to make way for Canterbury's six-story building. The developer's goal is to have the site ready for Canterbury's part of the project to start construction by September.

Local leaders who serve on the ECIDA board said they were pleased to see the project move forward, given fears that the vast property might sit vacant after the hospital left.

"This is a huge undertaking, butI think they have really sweated the details," said Mayor Byron W. Brown, calling it "a project that is going to get done."

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said the property is in a highly visible spot, so its redevelopment resonates. "That is a key sort of meeting point between a number of neighborhoods," he said.

The $2 million loan was the largest ever granted by the ECIDA's RDC loan division. The RDC also approved another big loan: $1 million to Boston Valley Terra Cotta, to buy manufacturing machinery and equipment as part of an expansion. The Town of Boston­-based company makes and renovates nonresidential architectural terra cotta.

Boston Valley Terra Cotta said the $2.6 million expansion will allow the company to take on more and bigger orders. Boston Valley Terra Cotta said that its facility is nearly booked for the next year. Boston Valley Terra Cotta told the ECIDA that it is bidding on $40.6 million in new projects, and says 45 percent, or $18.5 million, are "highly likely to be contracted."

"They really are becoming a worldwide destination for terra cotta, which is great," said Gerald R. Manhard, the ECIDA's loan manager. "So they're really committed to the area."

The company said that it expects the expansion to increase its sales to $20 million from $14 million, and to increase its U.S. market share. It has 119 employees and expects to add more than 20 jobs. Boston Valley Terra Cotta is financing the other $1.6 million of its $2.6 million project through First Niagara Bank.

The ECIDA approved tax breaks for two projects Wednesday: an expansion of Derrick Corp., a manufacturer in Cheektowaga, and Lazarus Properties LLC, a spirits company in Buffalo. Derrick Corp. plans to add 5,500 square feet to a facility on Duke Road, near the Walden Galleria. Derrick says that it has about 575 full­ and part­time employees in the region, including 477 full­time workers at its Duke Road location.

Derrick in 2006 built a 10,000­square­foot facility for research activities. The company plans a $1.15 million expansion of that facility to test more development equipment. The ECIDA approved tax breaks worth $139,000. Lazarus was approved for tax breaks totaling $92,000 related to acquiring and redeveloping 65 Vandalia St. The property will house Queen City Malting and Lakeward Spirits.