Developer buys Welch’s Building

The Welch’s Building in Westfield, pictured here, has been sold to a Buffalo company.

WESTFIELD — A historic building nearly 120 years old and previously the headquarters to Welch Foods could see new development in the near future.

The Westfield Town Board on Wednesday approved a resolution authorizing the sale of the 48,000-square-foot Welch’s Building, 2 Portage St. in the village, to Landmark Development Consortium LLC of Buffalo for $350,000.

The town purchased the property in 2014, and with it 14 total acres of land, in an attempt to preserve the building once considered the cornerstone of the Westfield business district. The sale includes the building while the town will retain 12 acres of land it purchased in 2014, a move that was just recently criticized in an audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

Town Supervisor Martha Bills said officials are excited the property could see new use after largely sitting vacant for many years. The town purchased the property and nearby land for $355,000 with hopes of preserving its history.

Bills referenced the Portage Inn, an iconic century-old warehouse-turned-hotel along Portage Street, that was demolished in December 2015 after sitting vacant and falling into disrepair.

“The opportunity came up for us to save the building,” Bills told The Post-Journal of the Welch’s property, constructed in 1910 and used as the company’s headquarters until the mid-1980s. “We determined that the cost of demolishing the building was more than what we paid for. … We were trying to be proactive and we were hoping to prevent what happened (with the Portage Inn).”

The town had been attempting to sell the building for a couple of years when the board approved the sale.

Noted in the resolution passed Wednesday is that Landmark Development plans to spend $5 million to renovate the building and convert it into a mixed-use facility. Bills said the development would include commercial and retail space with apartments in the upper floors.

In August, Welch Foods Inc., which has been leasing space in the Welch’s Building, bought the 16,000-square-foot ROR building on East Main Street for $275,000. The company’s current lease was set to expire in the Welch’s Building in July of next year.

“This will keep Welch’s in Westfield,” said Mark Geise, Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency CEO. “They have been looking at other buildings to purchase or land where they could build. They had a number of options.”