In September it was still a go. Three months later the renovation of the Flickinger Building in the city of Dunkirk has apparently hit a snag, if not needing a new plan altogether.
City of Dunkirk Development Director Steve Neratko told members of the Dunkirk Local Development board of directors in attendance that the project proposed by Chadwick Bay LLC is in trouble. Developer Brian Burke told the board in September that the company planned to go ahead with the $4 million project.
A conversation Neratko had with Burke last week signaled a problem.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
The developer for the Flickinger Building has notified the city and the Dunkirk Local Development Corpora-tion the project has hit a snag. Brian Burke of Chadwick Bay LLC was the developer for the Chadwick Bay Lofts (not pictured) and had planned a similar project for the Flickinger Building. The DLDC also holds the paper on the Paradise Building (right).
"He came in and asked me 'so how are we going to fund this project?'" Neratko began. "I'm not really sure. I thought he was taking the lead on financing the project. He's under the impression that we're doing it. We're doing the grant writing, that we're going out and getting the financing for this project.
"Then he stated that they have a lot of properties that they're working on and they have other properties that may have financial backing behind them. We can't really provide too much right now other than going out for other grant proposals and see what money's out there, but he's basically at this point stated that he's not really willing to go forward with the brownfields program unless we're willing to pay for it."
Neratko said the city doesn't have the money to pay the entire cost of the cleanup, which could run over $100,000. At this point Burke is seeking payment of $6,100 for work done with another $2,500 of work to be completed in the next month. The DLDC had authorized $16,000 in payments with $13,105 being released to Burke in September.
Board member Adelino Gonzalez stated if Burke exceeded the $16,000, it was not the board's fault.
"I think the whole thing is kind of ridiculous," Neratko replied.
"Tell him Santa Claus will be here soon," Gonzalez added to laughter.
Neratko asked how the board wanted to handle the issue, reimbursing Burke further or hold him to the $16,000.
"Was work done to what was agreed to?" board member Rosemary Banach asked.
Neratko said he will get more information on the studies that were completed..
"So, the additional invoice is not based on a contractual agreement between us and him and him agreeing to do $6,100 worth of more work?" board member Stephanie Kiyak asked.
Neratko explained what happened again with the reimbursement figures.
"My concern is if we don't go forward with this he's going to drop out of the project. I just want to make sure, he hasn't stated that but that is my feeling, I just want to make sure everyone is on board with that possibility," Neratko continued. "I think in regards to the environmental cleanup, there are definitely possibilities where we can bundle the cleanup on this property, as well as the cleanup on the Bertges site and possibly other sites, if it's financially responsible to do so. We don't know that now but it's something we are definitely looking into."
Neratko explained until the digging starts it's not known how much will have to be removed.
Banach asked about ramifications if Burke pulls out.
"We don't have a developer in sight so we'd have to start at the beginning of that process. He has applied for the brownfield cleanup program and was approved, so there is tax credits if the cleanup occurs under that program," Neratko replied. "If he pulls out I don't know necessarily if we have the capability to continue the program. Just like the Bertges site we'd basically be stuck."
Banach asked if the options were discussed.
"He stated that the only way he's completing the brownfields cleanup programs is if we pay him. If we pay we're probably looking at at least $100,000. He stated $100,000, it's really you don't know until you get in there," Neratko replied.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the benefit to the city in keeping the brownfields program is the tax credits that come with it tend to make it easier to find a developer in the future, or keep Burke. He added that having another developer take over might be best for the city given the cost.
Neratko explained that earlier this year Burke was willing to pay for the cleanup. Banach asked what changed.
"My impression ... it's just he doesn't see the grant avenues making this a feasible project," Dolce replied. "Whereas before he was able to get RestoreNY, it was a dollar for dollar, no sweat. He's got private dollars to invest but the grant avenues just aren't there right now. ... I think he has proposed a $4 million project, it's just not at the level that he can see it being useful from his perspective, his company's perspective."
Neratko said there is no grant money for a project with market value apartments.
"If you want to look for grant funding for apartments it's got to include low-to-moderate income and he's just not willing to go there," he added.
Kiyak asked what was the worst case that could happen.
"We have had some interest in the building it's not like he has been the only person interested in the building," Neratko replied. "There has been interest. A party or two have asked what we're doing with the building."
The DLDC also holds the paper on the Paradise building adjacent to the Flickinger building but Neratko said a package deal now is unlikely.
Gonzalez said he thought the building should go to the Seneca Nation. When it was pointed out it would then be tax free, Gonzalez said at least it would be cleaned up and businesses would go in there.
"He's even had interested parties come to him, business saying that they would like to rent a floor or two right now if he could fix it up," Neratko said. "His issue is the amount he's getting back does not pay for the amount he's putting in. At a minimum he's looking at a $2 million project just for the Flickinger Building."
Neratko said if Burke continued as the developer the search for grants would continue as well as Burke was not willing to put in more than 50 percent of the project cost.
The board decided it wanted to get more information.
"Tell him we still don't have a report that we already paid for and until we have that in hand we can't move forward," Kiyak said.
Neratko asked if the board was OK if Burke pulled out. Although a vote was not taken, the general consensus seemed to be it was OK if Burke pulled out of the project.
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