State buys 96 more acres for RiverBend projects
The state agency overseeing the planned solar-energy and high-tech hub at Riverbend has agreed to buy the remaining 96 acres of property from the city of Buffalo for $2.8 million, state officials announced Tuesday.
The new purchase adds to the 88 acres of land that the state already bought from the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. in May for $2.5 million. The city had acquired the former brownfield property in 2008 for $4.6 million.
"We're really hitting our stride in Buffalo and Western New York thanks to Governor Cuomo's continued focus on attracting the right mix of investment and job creation from private companies who see the benefit of doing business here," Howard Zemsky, co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, said in a statement. "Acquiring this additional acreage at RiverBend will further strengthen our ability to maintain the momentum that Governor Cuomo's policies have created."
Cuomo announced plans to develop the former steel manufacturing property at Riverbend into the proposed Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub, housing technology, clean-energy and biotechnology companies as part of an economic development initiative to create new jobs.
Under the proposal, the state will invest $225 million to create infrastructure at the site, including water, sewer and utility connections, roads and new facilities that will be owned by the state through the SUNY Research Foundation. Initial plans had called for a 275,000-square-foot facility to house two California companies, Soraa and Silevo, as the first two tenants, while other facilities would be constructed over time as new manufacturing tenants were brought in. But with Silevo's acquisition by Solar City, those plans are now changing to feature a much larger facility just for Silevo.
The state will also purchase and own equipment that the companies will use, while local colleges and universities will also have access to the facilities, equipment and partnerships. No direct state funding will go to any companies.
"RiverBend is at the forefront of a development boom that has literally transformed Buffalo, and tech companies from across the country and around the world have taken notice," Cuomo said. "Finalizing this purchase agreement will ensure that RiverBend is prepared to capitalize on this interest and add to the high tech movement that is taking hold in Western New York. Today, Buffalo truly is on the move."
The purchase agreement announced Tuesday also calls for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes for future project development on the newly purchased land if those developments are otherwise exempt from property taxes, ensuring a steady revenue stream for local municipalities regardless.
The purchase agreement calls for the Fort Schuyler Management Corp., an arm of the State University of New York that is managing property purchases for the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, to acquire the land from the Buffalo Urban Development Corp.
In addition, under the agreement, the new projects must comply with state requirements that at least 20 percent of business contractors be minority or women-owned businesses, that minorities and women must comprise at least 25 percent and 5 percent, respectively, of construction workers. The state also committed to work with local schools to create workforce and training programs to increase opportunities for Buffalo residents, particularly women and minorities.
"Governor Cuomo knows that the interest and excitement that has been ignited with the clean energy high tech business community by his Buffalo Billion investments is bona fide," Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, CEO of CNSE, said in the statement. "There is a buzz throughout this dynamic industry about what's happening in Buffalo and Western New York and adding more developable, shovel-ready acreage is a wise and prudent strategy."