LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Land that’s sat vacant since the early 1980s experienced a rebirth Tuesday, when 148 acres was acquired by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to be redeveloped; building a foundation on the past for technology of the future.
“We are going to turn this site into productive use,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “A lot of people didn’t think that we’d ever get to this day of just owning the property.”
In fact, that’s a process that’s taken nearly two decades.
“My involvement started 17 years ago when Dennis Gorski hired me from the private sector,” said Chris Pawenski, coordinator of Erie County’s Industrial Assistance Program.
Tuesday’s announcement that the county’s IDA will buy 148 acres of former Beth Steel property has been a long time coming.
Pawenski, like many of the deal’s major players, is from Lackawanna. He says maybe that’s what finally forced some progress.
“We all have a real self interest in seeing this city get itself back on its feet,” he said. “I can’t believe it. And I think the real work starts now. It’s a very great day. But now we have to deliver.”
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The county and IDA will make the site shovel ready, they’ll relocate railway, improve surrounding streets and include a new bike path connection to Woodlawn Beach.
The IDA will also build what’s known as a net-zero manufacturing facility, powered by green energy. Poloncarz says the county already has interest from private businesses — going so far as issuing a guarantee.
“I guarantee you, in a very short period of time, you’re going to see economic development here and the jobs that come with it,” Poloncarz said. “We’ve already had parties reach out to us because they knew we were in the process of acquiring the land.”
That’s why, he says, paying the $5.5 million for the property — or about $37,000 an acre — is worth it.
“That was a pretty damn good investment for the people of this community because in the end, that increases our tax base and it grows jobs. ))
The former Bethlethem Steel site played such a role in the history of Lackawanna and Erie County, local leaders said they hope this redevelopment is just the start. There are already plans to buy up more of this land for additions redevelopment.