News Column

Hi-tech projects take step forward

February 14, 2014

By Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Feb. 14--State officials have selected Buffalo commercial real estate firms LPCiminelli and McGuire Development Co. as the preferred developers for future high-tech research and manufacturing facilities here -- such as RiverBend in South Buffalo -- that would be built to bolster the Western New York economy.

The decision to award a five-year contract to the two firms could prove lucrative, since it would appear to guarantee a steady stream of work as the state moves forward with efforts to develop a clean-tech and science-oriented new economy.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pouring hundreds of millions of state dollars into the region as part of his Buffalo Billion, and advanced manufacturing and "green" technology are a major component.

"Gov. Cuomo's transformation of the economic development landscape of Buffalo and Western New York is well underway," Howard Zemsky, co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, said in a statement.

"The array of high-tech developments the governor has championed holds tremendous promise and opportunity for our region. Getting the development team in place will help us move forward quickly."

The two firms, which were selected by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany as the overall project administrator, will have the exclusive development rights for the next five years to construct any state-of-the-art facilities necessary to advance the state's economic development goals. The "strategic partnership" also would provide for five successive one-year renewal options if all parties agree.

"McGuire Development Co. is excited about this prestigious opportunity to further Gov. Cuomo's plans to develop high-tech clean-energy research and manufacturing hubs within Buffalo," said James Dentinger, the company's chief executive officer. "This is yet another step in the right direction for Buffalo's economic renaissance, and we're thrilled to be a part of it."

Nine developers expressed initial interest in winning developer status, but only six asked for more information and signed confidentiality agreements.

However, it's still far from clear exactly what work the two developers will be doing, when or where, or how they will work together. Neither the vague press release nor the firms nor the college would identify specific projects or facilities.

The original request for proposals, issued Oct. 15, did not specify what projects the developers would participate in, and the formal contract between LPCiminelli, McGuire, the nanoscale college and SUNY'sFort Schuyler Management Corp. will not cite particular projects either, according to the announcement.

Still, officials touted the announcement as a major step.

"We look forward to working with both of these highly qualified developers to deliver world class, state-of-the-art facilities for the leading technology companies being lured to Western New York," Dr. Alain E. Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the nanoscale college, said in a press release.

The developers will now meet with state officials and negotiate a formal contract.

"We've all been watching the governor talk about his vision for nano in Buffalo, and like everyone else, we've been very excited about it," said Kevin Schuler, spokesman for LPCiminelli, which is working with Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. and Hodgson Russ LLP. "To be part of realizing that vision is just a tremendous opportunity."

So far, Cuomo has unveiled two major projects that together will yield more than $1.5 billion in private investments along with hundreds of millions that the state is investing.

First, Albany Molecular Research Inc., an Albany-based biomedical research firm, is setting up a drug development operation in Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s Conventus building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will be joined by Waltham, Mass.-based PerkinElmer, another research company, in what Cuomo has billed as the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub.

But that is not part of the new five-year contract. That $110 million, seven-story project, which also will house other medical, science and research operations for Kaleida Health and medical practice group UBMD, is already under construction, with an expected completion in spring, 2015. Both LPCiminelli and McGuire are already involved, with LPCiminelli as the construction contractor and McGuire as the representative for UBMD.

More recently, though, Cuomo announced plans for the Buffalo High-Tech Innovation and Commercialization Hub at RiverBend, to house two solar-energy companies, Soraa and Silevo, that will relocate operations from California. The state will invest $225 million in infrastructure, equipment and construction of 275,000 square feet of space in the first of six buildings on an 88-acre former steel manufacturing campus, while the two firms will spend $750 million each and bring 850 jobs.

That project has not yet begun, and is expected to be part of the new contract, along with future concepts that have not yet been announced. Additionally, the state is developing a new Advanced Manufacturing Institute, initially in the former SmartPill headquarters building on Main Street, and the Start-Up New York tax-free zones will encourage other development on and around college campuses.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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