Looking at change in Dunkirk

The preparations continue to make a change in the city of Dunkirk’s future.

Another step, albeit relatively small – but necessary, in returning a former city industrial site to a productive use was accomplished earlier this week when the Roberts Road Development Corporation met in City Hall.

Steve Abdella, acting county executive, chaired the meeting. The RRDC has three ex-officio directors, including the mayor Dunkirk, the county legislature chairman and the county executive.

Abdella gave a short history of the RRDC, saying in 2009 the county had succeeded in acquiring the former Edgewood Warehouse, Roblin Steel and Alumax/Alcoa properties on Roberts Road in the city. The county then moved to form the RRDC for marketing and developing the property. After an initial meeting in 2009, a request for proposal was issued and a developer, Cliffstar and the Krog Corporation, came forward and discussions went on for a few years.

County Industrial Development Agency Director Bill Daly gave a history of what happened to that effort, saying the Star family sold Cliffstar to Cott.

“It went from a management that was going to be part of it to a scenario where we had new ownership. … It just stretched the process out for a long period of time,” Daly explained.

An application for RESTORE NY funds, based on the original project, was filed.

“The city of Dunkirk was the applicant and the RESTORE NY program had three phases,” Daly continued. “Whatever that particular phase was, taking down those buildings, demoing them and building new on a brownfield site, is exactly what, I mean it was a picture-perfect application for RESTORE NY.

Because of that criteria fit and the scope of the project the city got around $2.5 million, which Daly said is still available and was the city’s “big piece in this.”

A second RFP was issued in May.

“We now have a second potential interested developer, (Atwater Capital LLC of Boca Raton, Fla.). … We’re now at the point where we’re in negotiations with Atwater so we need to, in essence, bring the Roberts Road Development Corporation somewhat back into activity,” Abdella told the board. “… Do some corporate housekeeping … and then schedule a meeting, hopefully for early in the year in which we might be able to move forward with additional action related to the property.”

The board then completed the housekeeping paperwork, including appointing officers. Daly will continue as president, finance director will be Susan Marsh and Abdella would be the secretary, until Vince Horrigan is sworn in as county executive Jan. 1.

Legislature Chairman Frank ‘Jay’ Gould will head the RRDC audit and finance committee and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce will head the governance committee. Horrigan, Dolce and Gould will make up the RRDC directors.

The 2014 budget shows a budget of $110,000 with $15,000 for professional services and $95,000 for non-operating expenditures.

“If the property is sold and we have had some revenue, at this point because the DEC had expended monies in the cleanup of the Roblin site, one thing we will have to analyze is if there’s any reimbursement obligation back to the DEC. I’m tentatively optimistic at this point that due to the county’s investment in demolition and other activities on the site, the development corporation will not have to reimburse monies to the DEC because the county made a sufficient contribution,” Abdella explained. “What we’ll be looking at if there are disposition proceeds, is whether to what extent some of the money will go back to the county to reimburse it, or we’ll have the opportunity to retain those monies in the corporation, potentially for use on other development projects in or around the city of Dunkirk. That’s something we can look at, hopefully, when we cross that juncture.”

An executive session was called to discuss a potential land acquisition agreement.

“At this point we are in negotiations with Atwater and what I would like to do is bring the board up to date on those negotiations. However, because we are in negotiations it would be appropriate we have the discussion in executive session,” Abdella explained.

In November, Dunkirk Common Council passed a resolution allowing for the pass through of any funds received from a RESTORE NY Grant Program under an application the city approved in 2009. At that time, the city, with the help of the county, got some $2.4 million in tax credits for work that was to be done at the Edgewood site.

“The project didn’t go through as hoped. There is a new developer who’s working with the county and the city. … He is looking to do a roughly $10 million project to rehabilitate the structure at the Edgewood facility for warehousing,” city Development Director Steve Neratko told council before the vote.

According to the resolution, the project has been determined to be appropriate by the New York State Empire Development Corporation.

After the meeting, Dolce said the project was “looking good.”

“We’re very excited about the potential there. Obviously, during negotiations there’s always details to work out, but hopefully next month we’re having a signing ceremony and we’ll see the project start next year,” he added.

Atwater or another developer would buy the property from the RRDC. As for a PILOT program, Dolce said it was the most likely option and would be negotiated with the county IDA.

No further business was planned after the executive session and the next RRDC meeting was set for Jan. 7.

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