Why Amazon may like Niagara County better – Buffalo News


BY JONATHAN D. EPSTEIN
MARCH 8, 2022
A rendering shows the north facade of the proposed new 3-million-square-foot warehouse in the Town of Niagara that would be built for Amazon. Town residents and leaders should focus on ways to help this project succeed.
When e-commerce giant Amazon withdrew its plans for a massive distribution center in Grand Island, the Seattle-based company had enough of the opposition and hurdles it faced in Erie County.
Vocal residents opposed to the $300 million project had all but shouted it down, and were threatening to continue the fight. Costs were rising by the minute. And local officials were insisting on several extra requirements from the company. So Amazon pulled the plug and all but said it wouldn’t try again in Erie County.
Now, two years later, Amazon is back. This time, it wants to locate in the Town of Niagara. And while the devil’s in the details – and the proposal has only just surfaced – the indications are that Amazon may find Niagara County more to its liking.
Let’s look at why.
Town officials sought it out. The town aggressively pursued the company two years ago when it was apparent that the Grand Island project was doomed. The town supervisor even sent a courtship letter to Amazon, encouraging it to look north, even citing the giant property that Amazon is now targeting.
It is near an airport. The site is adjacent to the Niagara Falls International Airport, and just down the road from the Niagara Thruway, or Interstate 190. That puts it within much easier reach of air transportation than the site on Grand Island would have been. It’s also much closer to the Canadian border.
There’s more than one way to get there. This new property is not on an island where the only ways on or off are two narrow bridges that are known for being bottlenecks.
True, southbound traffic on I-190 still has to cross Grand Island – and the bridges – to get to Buffalo and other destinations, but trucks could also navigate myriad other routes through the Tonawandas or even other towns, if necessary. That option is not available on Grand Island.
It is with other businesses. The property is in an existing commercial and industrial area, not near a residential neighborhood that would be concerned about traffic, noise, pollution or any other issues that were cited by opponents on Grand Island.
Fewer regulations. While Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz supported the Amazon project, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency imposes local workforce and other requirements on companies seeking tax breaks. Niagara County’s IDA does not.
Beggars can’t be choosers. Niagara County is in much more economic need of jobs, major investments and large employers, making it more likely to bend over backwards to capture a major project such as Amazon.
Both Invest Buffalo Niagara and Empire State Development are sure to be on hand to help with incentives and other non-financial assistance.
Time will tell in the months ahead. To quote Yogi Berra and Lenny Kravitz, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
– Jonathan D. Epstein
Want to know more? Three stories to catch you up:
• Amazon brings five-story distribution project for Town of Niagara
• Why Amazon on Grand Island was lost – and what Western New York should learn from it
• Why did Amazon jilt Grand Island, and will Project Olive find a new WNY home?
Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.
A new soil recycling facility could be coming to the Town of Lancaster. The town Planning Board last week considered an application by EnSol Inc. for a state-registered operation that would accept excess construction soils and then repurpose them for use as fill at off-site locations. Only licensed facilities can legally take such material.
The Planning Board also examined proposals for a 10,640-square-foot retail store at 5807 Broadway; a motel and mixed-use facility at 5827 Broadway, with commercial space and a coffee shop on the first floor; a four-unit apartment building with basement parking for eight vehicles at the Plumb Creek Apartments at 5680 Broadway; and redevelopment of 4781 Transit Road into a three-story building with 14 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail, plus a separate building with a bank and drive-thru.
West Herr Automotive Group wants more space to store cars in Orchard Park. So, it is asking the Orchard Park Planning Board to rezone 8.8 acres of vacant land from residential to commercial at 3531 Southwestern Boulevard, on the southeast side of the street, southwest of Milestrip Road.
Also in Orchard Park, Excelsior Orthopedics wants to construct a 10,000-square-foot addition to their existing building at 260 Redtail Road and expand the parking lot.
Elma-based Concept Construction Corp. was named general contractor for the core-and-shell construction project for Buffalo Rehab Group’s 13th physical therapy location, at 2965 Sheridan Drive. The one-story, 3,120-square-foot build-to-suit building and a parking lot are expected to be completed by midsummer.
Five reads from Buffalo Next:
1. Homebuilders are busy, but land shortages hold them back: There’s a lot for new-build homes in the area, but builders are stymied by a lack of available shovel-ready land, a shortage of labor, supply-chain disruptions and soaring prices.
2. Former piano-key factory targeted for loft apartment conversion: The Wopperer family, which has owned the 13-acre former Wood & Brooks Co. industrial plant in Tonawanda for over 50 years, wants to convert the historic six-story daylight factory warehouse – which once turned out 125,000 piano keys every year – into 55 apartments, plus co-working space for construction contractors. A vocational training facility would occupy an adjacent small one-story structure.
3. Buffalo Niagara Marriot is going up for auction: The sale could mean the end of several years of financial limbo for the struggling hotel near University at Buffalo’s North Campus, provided a new hotel owner has the wherewithal to revive it.
4. What’s driving Roswell Park’s expansion across New York?: Beyond the mothership on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Roswell Park now has more than a dozen locations in its Care Network, comprising six community practices it has acquired over the years, as well as affiliations with seven health systems. It means Roswell, which has nearly doubled its revenue over the last decade to $1.03 billion, is larger than ever.
5. M&T gets green light for People’s United Financial deal: The Federal Reserve Board approved M&T Bank Corp.’s $7.6 billion deal to buy People’s United Financial of Bridgeport, Conn. Now, the banks have to set a date for closing, and then start the integration for the biggest deal in M&T’s history. 
The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Reach Real Estate & Development reporter Jonathan D. Epstein at (716) 849-4478 or email him at jepstein@buffnews.com.
Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com.
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News Business Reporter
I’ve been a business reporter at The Buffalo News since 2004, now covering residential and commercial real estate and development amid WNY’s resurgence. I’m an upstate native, proud to call Buffalo my home, and committed to covering it thoroughly.
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A rendering shows the north facade of the proposed new 3-million-square-foot warehouse in the Town of Niagara that would be built for Amazon. Town residents and leaders should focus on ways to help this project succeed.
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