Re-use of old Children’s Hospital could hinge on tax credits

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As Women and Children’s Hospital moves to its new home in downtown Buffalo, plans are underway to re-use the old Bryant Street complex of 7 buildings on nearly 8 acres, that is more than 600,000 sq. ft. of space to fill.

Kaleida Health, which owns the former Women and Childrens Hospital, is selling the property to a joint venture of Ellicott Development and Sinatra & Company Real Estate for one million dollars to re-develop the property, in one of the highest value neighborhoods in Erie County.

Buffalo Common Council member David Rivera believes re-purposing the old hospital is vital to the neighborhood and to the city.

“It is very densely populated, there is a lot of interest. Property values have skyrocketed in this area, and there is great potential–people want to experience this neighborhood.”

The Niagara District councilman said hospital officials have been working with developers over the last 5 years to come up with a re-development plan and what he has seen on the drawing board is impressive.

“There is going to be a hotel, a market, condos, residents, other things perhaps, boutiques. So there are a number of things that are going to be happening in this area.”

But a major key to the success of the project could be historic state and federal tax credits the same tax credits that have helped boost Buffalo’s economic revival over the last 10 years.

The federal Historic Tax Credit, dating back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan has enabled developers to turn old buildings into condominiums, apartments, and hotels, which might not have been possible otherwise.

But as Congress reworks the U.S. Tax Code, in the name of tax reform, those historic tax credits seem to be conspicuously missing.

Developer Rocco Termini who has used historic tax credits to revive a number of older buildings, including the Hotel Lafayette downtown, said those credits are vital to the old hospital’s rebirth, “Childrens Hospital will not happen without the historic tax credits.”

Historic tax credits enabled Termini, through his Signature Development firm, to shave about 20 percent off the cost of redeveloping the Hotel Lafayette, and believes Buffalo’s economic future could depend on keeping those credits on the books.

“In the last 10 years 70 buildings in Buffalo have been historically improved, and you can see it downtown.”

In fact Termini said the Hotel Lafayette itself, “would be a parking lot today if it wasn’t for the federal and state historic tax credits.”

As Termini explained it, historic tax credits allows developers to hold down their costs, which in turn holds down the rent in their buildings to a level tenants can afford.

Without the credits, Termini said rents in many cases would double, or even go higher. So if the tax credits go away, Termini is convinced vacancies would increase and property values would decrease.

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