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State to close on RiverBend deal this week

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. expects to close on the real estate portion of the deal with the New York state agency overseeing the $5 billion RiverBend development.

BUDC officials, Tuesday, confirmed the sale of 96 acres of land along South Park Avenue in South Buffalo, to Fort Schuyler Management Corp., a state agency should be finalized this week.

"It's all set to go," said David Stebbins, BUDC vice president.

Fort Schuyler is paying $29,043 per acre or $2.8 million for the land, once the home of Republic Steel. The deal gives the state agency complete control of all 188 Riverbend acres. The sale price is about $1,000 more per acre than Fort Schuyler paid BUDC for 92 acres at RiverBend. That deal closed this summer.

Presumably much — if not all — of the 96 acres will be devoted to the massive SolarCity Corp. plant and research center that's being eyed for RiverBend. SolarCity is expected to employ nearly 3,000 people as it produces and does research on cutting edge solar-based technology.

The project is being developed in companion with Soraa, a California-based LED specialist.

Where Soraa will be located is still being discussed among state and local officials.

New York state is offering almost $225 million in incentives to Solar City, mostly through the Buffalo Billion allocation made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the projects.

While the incentives are pricey, the payoff is Buffalo serving as Western New York's high-tech, green-energy hub and the promise of more than 3,500 jobs being created initially between Solar City and Soraa.

"It's bigger, so it's going to be more everything," Cuomo said Monday during a Buffalo visit. "More funding. Bigger footprint. It's an evolution from the agreement we had. It's still ongoing, but it is on a positive track."

The 96 acres Fort Schuyler will be acquiring will handle Solar City's immediate needs. The exact amount of square footage and scope of the project is still being determined. Work on the Solar City site started in September and continues under LPCiminelli. The land is located off of Tifft, Abby and Baraga streets.

Under the terms of the pact, Fort Schuyler will own both the Solar City and Silevo complexes but the respective companies will be responsible for creating the new innovation hub in Buffalo.

Besides creating the new jobs and private-sector investment, BUDC at the urging of Mayor Byron Brown received assurances that an emphasis will be made on hiring minority and women-owned businesses during the construction phase and that mostly local residents, those within a 75-mile range of Buffalo, are hired and they are paid a prevailing wage. Minority and women hiring for both companies will also be emphasized, Brown added.

Even with the Solar City and Soraa deals, there may be some available acreage at RiverBend. If not, there is land available at the nearby Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.

Fort Schuyler also is credited with forming Albany's successful and highly-touted nanoscience and research complex.