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Big Plans Unveiled for RiverBend Site

Buffalo Business First [ View Original Article ]

The vacant RiverBend property that borders the Buffalo River -- and was once home to Republic Steel's local operations -- could find new life as a mixed-use development site.

Buffalo Urban Development Corp. directors received their first look at the 260-acre property on Tuesday afternoon. It sits two miles south of downtown Buffalo. The development plan was put together by Watertown, Mass.-based Sasaki Associates Inc.

The property, which Sasaki officials estimate may take at least 30 years to fully develop, could be home to 3.3 million square feet of new buildings. Tentative plans call for 1.23 million square feet of R&D space to be developed, along with 324,000 square feet of housing, 855,000 square feet of light industrial space, at least one hotel and a 60,000-square-foot sports facility.

The plan was approved by the BUDC directors, opening the door to move it from the talking stage to reality.

Green space would play a significant role with forested areas, public access along the water's edge and other components.

"Our goal was to find that sweet spot in the regional economy," said Willa Small Kuh, Sasaki senior associate and point person for the master plan. "From Day One, it was never designed to compete with downtown Buffalo."

The RiverBend plan is designed to complement BUDC's development of the neighboring Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park by creating a town center-like atmosphere that is attractive to companies and residents.

Tom Kucharski, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise president and chief executive officer, said his agency is already fielding calls from prospective developers and tenants who are interested in the RiverBend property now that a master plan is in place.

RiverBend is central to the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area, which has 1,900 acres, and is the largest BOA in the state.

"It is meant to be a campus, a low campus where developers can buy parcels," Kuh said. "It is a distinct district that just happens to be two miles from downtown Buffalo."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, BUDC president, said he supports the master plan, but he wants a wider impact scope to see how it fits in elsewhere in Buffalo and the region.

"We've got to do this in such a way that it enhances our ability to put people to work," Brown said. "And, we need to aggressively market this."


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