The effort to develop a piece of property that was a significant part of Dunkirk's industrial past has taken a big step forward.
The Roberts Road Development Corporation approved a resolution Tuesday during its meeting in City Hall that would result in Atwater Capital LLC of Miami buying the property to develop warehousing on the site. The RRDC board of directors consists of County Executive Vince Horrigan, Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce and County Legislature Chairman Frank Gould.
According to the resolution, the RRDC will buy the property from the county for $1 and then sell the approximately 22 acres to Atwater for $5,000 per acre ($110,600). The property had been appraised by EHNP Inc. at $7,000 per acre ($154,840) but the sale for less than that figure is possible under state law as the project is expected to "enhance tax revenues and job opportunities through increased commercial activity," among other qualifying factors.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Top: The former Edgewood Warehouse, along with adjoining property where the former Alumax and Roblin Steel companies were located, are part of a development project proposed by Atwater Capital LLC. Chautauqua County currently owns the properties but will sell them to the Roberts Road Development Corporation which will then sell the land to Atwater.
Above: Atwater Capital LLC President William A. Cocose explains his plans for development of the Roberts Road site currently owned by Chautauqua County that consists of property that formerly housed Edgewood Warehouse, Roblin Steel and Alumax. In the background is Chautauqua County Attorney Steve Abdella.
Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency Chief Executive Officer Bill Daly introduced Atwater President William A. Cocose to the RRDC, county and city officials in attendance. Daly said Cocose is already familiar with the area, owning a warehouse on Stegelske Avenue in the city. Cocose presented some aerial views of the site as he spoke.
"We're excited, there's a lot of very good companies that are trying to find a way to expand. I will tell you that it's all about the bottom line. ... What people don't readily understand is you can layer these incentives and really create a powerful package," Cocose stated. "If you look at each one individually they're good, but the idea here is to make them collectively great. The IDA has some more arsenal in the toolbox for us. ... Just in this example we would have roughly 200,000 feet of new and/or improved space. ... It may be a little more.
"We think we can hit the ground running and approach this very aggressively, but the reality is it all comes down to having credit-worthy tenants willing to sign the lease so that the bank says 'let's go.' I talked to the bank and based on the success we had at Stegelske Avenue we have the credibility to say yes, we can do this."
Cocose is already working with Krog Corp., which had been one of the original two developers proposed for the site in 2009.
"We're looking at everything from a cold-storage use in addition to dry storage. ... There's a need for all of that in this community," Cocose stated. "You've got some good businesses that are actually leaving the state to handle their cold storage needs and actually driving to Erie, Pa. ... We see this as a reality, the timing will come together. ... We've got good local companies that are at the right level of overgrowth and landlocked, so we're quite optimistic."
Daly added the Krog Corp. has been "wonderfully cooperative" with Cocose, providing the environmental information.
"They spent a lot of money on that, so now we're getting a great development," Daly said of Krog's previous efforts. "Krog is a developer who's done a lot of work in our county. He's now coming in as the building piece of this so he will recoup some of the money he put in."
Daly added the cooperation between the city and county was "outstanding" and thanked Empire State Development for staying with the project.
Atwater has time lines to meet, otherwise the property could revert back to the RRDC. These include construction plans being submitted by June; evidence of financing and a building permit by July. Construction must start by Aug. 11 and be completed within a year.
After the vote Cocose said, "the clock starts."
"I think it's great for the city and the county to see this type of repurposing going forward. It's just a great opportunity to celebrate success," Horrigan said. "Of course, we'll wait to walk through that warehouse and we can't wait to do that and you show us around. ... I congratulate everybody involved."
After the meeting Dolce said the process went "quite well."
"Today is another step in that process and we're extremely excited that Atwater Capital has chosen to make a significant investment in the city of Dunkirk and Chautauqua County," Dolce added. "I echo everyone's comments on this being a great example of public-private partnerships."
Cocose said he came to Dunkirk some 10 years ago.
"I was contacted by the trustee who was handling the bankruptcy of Dunkirk Industrial Glass over on Stegelske. He said, 'Have I got a deal for you.' He had heard about a project I had taken out of a Chapter 7 in Miami and when I came up I was really sold on the area," he continued. "Sold on, not only the quality of life here but the quality of corporations and companies landlocked, expanding, growing. I saw the opportunity and what really convinced me was also the can-do attitude of local public officials, whether it's at the city level, the town level, the county level, the state level. Because for this to work when you have something that's upside down, which it probably was in Stegelske, you have to have every tool available to make this turn around. You really have to have the team in place, both public and private."
Cocose said he was more excited about the current project.
"I've gotten to know local corporations a little better. I see the continuing need to expand, plus I've really come to love Chautauqua County so it makes feel very good about doing something positive for this area."
Cocose said the Millennium Parkway being built played a big role in his decision to go ahead with the project.
"I had one gentleman in the real estate department of one of these companies say, 'Wow, you're right at Main and Main' so to speak," he added. "It opens up the entire site, it opens up the visibility, and I believe it's going to help us market the site. Millennium does carve through the property a little bit and it leaves a slight strip that there may or may not be a good use for, but by and large moving that Millennium Parkway saved this project and allowed it to be developed because otherwise we would have just cut it in half. That would have been a whole different kind of dynamic."
Cocose said he had at least one tenant and was talking to three others.
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