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BUDC approves sale of Riverbend property for high-tech hub

 The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. has unanimously approved the land sale of a large portion of the Riverbend Commerce Park to a state-affiliated agency.

The deal will see BUDC sell 88.24 acres of property for $2.5 million to the Fort Schuyler Management Corp., or $28,300 per acre for the vacant, former industrial site. The land was appraised at $20,000 an acre.


The closing on the real estate portion of the transaction should take place by early summer.

A pair of California-based high-tech, green energy companies will bring operations to a 275,000-square-foot complex that will be owned by Fort Schuyler Management. The project carries a $1.5 billion development price tag.


The project was announced last November. Since then formal negotiations between Buffalo and state officials cemented the deal.


The 180-acre Riverbend property was once the site of Republic Steel in South Buffalo.

The Buffalo High Tech Manufacturing & Innovation Hub will anchor a development that will house Soraa and Silveo, a pair of California-based green tech firms. Silveo develops solar panels while Soraa produces LED lighting equipment.


Environmental studies are underway on the property. 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 and construction could begin this summer. LPCiminelli has been retained as the project general contractor.


In a prepared statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the BUDC vote "a major milestone."

To attract the companies from California, New York state agreed to invest $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 an economic development companion to the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Fort Schuyler Management was also involved in that development in Albany.


Soraa will shift its R&D and manufacturing operations from Silicon Valley to Buffalo. Soraa, alone, will be investing $750 million and creating 375 jobs initially at the Riverbend plant.


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

Both companies will establish a working relationship 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, plans call for Riverbend to house six buildings.


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