November 05, 2013

Developers answer state’s call for high-tech hub in Buffalo Niagara

By: David Robinson

Source: The Buffalo News

Some of the Buffalo Niagara region’s most prominent developers – from Uniland Development to LP Ciminelli and McGuire Development – are competing to win the state’s designation to help create a high-tech economic development hub in Buffalo.

A half-dozen developers, including TM Montante, Acquest Development and Australian developer Lend Lease, have responded to the Cuomo administration’s request for proposals for the creation of a high-tech research and manufacturing hub in Buffalo that will attempt to build on the state’s success in developing nanotechnology hubs in Albany and Utica.

The expressions of interest by the developers come at the earliest stages of what will be a months-long process of selecting a company to partner with the state. That will be followed by the lengthy process of developing a viable plan for creating an economic development hub that will be a catalyst for research and development, training and manufacturing, focused on the nanotechnology, medical and green energy fields.

“We have seen strong interest in the project,” said Stephen Janack, a spokesman for the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, which is spearheading the project in conjunction with Fort Schuyler Management Corp., a not-for-profit entity that is affiliated with the Albany nanoscience college.

Project officials have told developers the initial focus is on the selection of a company to partner with the state in the development of the hub.

“We’re now in the process of submitting our response,” said James Dentinger, the president of McGuire Development. Uniland officials also confirmed their interest in the project. The developers have until Dec. 10 to submit proposals outlining their qualifications, as well as their ability to make the significant investments the state is seeking from its partners in the initiative. State officials also will evaluate the developers based on their track records and their ability to attract high-tech partners and businesses to the proposed development hub.

“I would call this more of a qualifications process,” said Kevin C. Schuler, an LP Ciminelli senior vice president.

“Not much has yet transpired,” said Timothy Vaeth, the president of TM Montante, which is working on its proposal. All of the developers interested in submitting proposals were required to sign confidentiality agreements.

The project would be part of a state-backed initiative to expand the reach of the nanotechnology college beyond its successful roots in Albany and the sprawling Marcy Nanocenter outside Utica. Six high-tech companies announced last month that they would invest more than $1.5 billion in that community to create a second nanotechnology center in Marcy that would employ more than 1,000 people.

The nanotechnology college is seeking proposals from developers interested in forging a partnership to create “state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge infrastructure” at an undetermined site in the Buffalo Niagara region. The center would serve as an economic development hub for research, workforce training and manufacturing for the nanotechnology industry, as well as the medical and green energy fields.

The initial proposals are aimed at selecting a developer with a proven track record that would help finance the construction of the Buffalo center and help land tenants for the high-tech facility. The state wants developers with a history of building and operating mixed-use facilities, including top-of-the-market office space and laboratory facilities.

One section of the document provided to developers said the state is looking for developers with more than 50 years of experience, though officials familiar with the bid process said it was unclear whether that would be a binding factor, since it would eliminate many of the interested bidders. The document also specifies that the state is seeking “a local developer in the Greater Buffalo area,” which could be a hurdle for Australian-based Lend Lease, whose upstate office is in Syracuse.

Once a developer is selected, likely early next year, the company and the state will negotiate a five-year contract allowing the company to function as the project’s preferred developer. The state also is expected to pick two backup candidates to be considered if the negotiations with the first- or second-choice companies are unsuccessful.