Grand Island’s loss may become Chautauqua County’s gain.
The county, according to a report by Buffalo Business First, is one of several other potential sites Amazon is looking at for its proposed “megaproject,” a regional distribution center that when completed would be one of the largest in the world. The developer in charge of the project, Trammell Crow Company, had been looking at Grand Island, but announced this week it was pulling out and looking at alternative sites due to the projected facility’s vicinity to the town’s residential community and the legal backlash that was expected to ensue.
Local elected leaders are excited about the possibility. County Executive PJ Wendel said county leaders began pursuing the opportunity several weeks ago when it appeared the developer could be withdrawing from the Grand Island site.
“We contacted the developer and have been in contact with them,” Wendel said. “They’ve responded that they are in reset mode right now after how things occurred in Grand Island.”
Mark Geise, deputy county executive for economic development, said the county is working with Invest Buffalo Niagara to “promote Chautauqua County as a good location” and that the county has “provided several sites for consideration. That being said, we are being very proactive.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said he, too, has been advocating for Trammell Crow Co. and Amazon to consider Chautauqua County.
“I am very familiar with the folks behind the proposal up in Grand Island, a group out of Texas in particular that is the primary folks involved in that project,” Reed said during a visit Friday morning at the James Prendergast Library. “When that situation developed I immediately reached out to our folks there and said, ‘Look, I’m offering some opportunities — if you’re
looking in New York, we know of some areas that are very close to Grand Island that would be open to welcoming you rather than rejecting you.’
He added, “So stay tuned — we’re going to lean on that relationship in particular and highlight this place like we always do and say that this is a place you want to come and do business and if you want to do that type of business, Chautauqua County in particular, is right along a thruway, has some good open land that could be developed in a way to allow them to hit their metrics that they need to hit in order to meet their requirements for operations.”
Wendel said the county has focused primarily on two different sites for a proposed project, stressing that both would eliminate the concerns raised in Grand Island.
“Our areas are not residential areas,” Wendel added. “That’s something exciting about the possibility here.”
The areas include county-owned land in the Town of Ripley as well as Mason Industrial Park in the Town of Ellcott. Focus appears to be on the Ripley site.
“The Ripley site we’ve talked about,” Wendel said. “It’s almost like there would be a whole dedicated exit for it as well as a rail line. There are a lot of opportunities that would really benefit the whole situation. We’re hoping that they would consider what we have and what we would be able to provide.”
State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, told The Post-Journal the possibility of a project with Amazon “enthused” him and that the Ripley site would be “most appropriate” for the operation.
“We recently expanded water and sewer there,” Borrello said. “Already we have the travel center project there and it’s literally right off the thruway and not far from Interstate 86. Strategically and logistically that would be a great spot for the full scale warehouse should it continue with that size scope.”
Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, agreed.
“The county for a long time has identified an excellent site for a distribution center near Ripley,” said Goodell, calling the initiative by the town board to extend water and sewer out to the site as “critical” for any involvement.
“It’s an excellent connection to buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland,” he added. “You pick up for large metropolitan areas and that is almost perfectly in the center of all three.”
According to LoopNet, the site, located on Shortman Road, is 140 acres and located just off Exit 61 of Interstate 90, while still being in close vicinity to Interstate 86, U.S. Route 20 and New York State Route 5. It’s located within 500 miles of 55% of the United States population and 62% of the Canadian population while also being located midway between Chicago, Illinois and New York City.
Goodell also anticipates that there would be support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his economic development team given their involvement with the over $30 million spent on the National Comedy Center and over $200 million put together for the Athenex project.
“We have an excellent working relationship with the state economic development teams as reflected in the funding we were able to get for the National Comedy Center, over $30 million, and the funding that was put together for the Athenex project, over $200 million. I’m very proud of our local economic development team and very appreciative to Gov. Cuomo and his economic development team for developing these projects. … and the governor himself was personally very supportive of Amazon’s efforts to locate a major facility in New York City. His support of Amazon as a company or a corporate entity is a matter of public record and the governor has been very supportive of the major economic development projects in Chautauqua County.”
Most of all, Wendel just wants to sit down and have the opportunity to engage in more detailed conversation with the developers.
“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said. But we really want to just sit down and talk with the developers to really show them what we have here.”
The developers did ask if the county would engage in conversation with county residents.
“I told them, ‘Absolutely,’” he said. “We wouldn’t bring this in without the acceptance of the residents. The unique part about this is that it would bring a good number of jobs and it’s not in a residential area. We just have to do our due diligence and go from there.”
The Buffalo News reported Amazon’s original interest in the Grand Island site, a 145-acre property at 2780 Long Road, just off the I-90, in May of 2019. Trammell Crow submitted plans for a 3.8 million square-foot facility, known as Project Olive, in February which would was estimated to be a $300 million total project while adding a nearly $31 million annual payroll.
Trammell Crow, a real estate development, investment and property management company based in Dallas, Texas, did not to an email request for comment.
According to Buffalo Business First, other sites being considered include Summit Mall in Niagara County, property near the Medina Business Park and Genesee County’s STAMP property in the Town of Alabama.
John D’Agostino and Eric Tichy contributed to this report.
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