Luxury apartment and retail project gets tax breaks from Amherst IDA

A project to convert a vacant Main Street building into high-end apartments and retail space is getting nearly $930,000 in tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.

The $9.2 million project will demolish the existing building at 5927-5951 Main St. and construct a three-story building, covering 56,000 square feet of space, that will include first-floor retail space and 20 upscale apartments on the second and third floors.

The apartments are expected to rent for as little as $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom unit as small as 1,250 square feet, and more than $2,000 a month for apartments as big as 1,850 square feet, developer Jonathan Bevilacqua said Friday.

Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa said the project is a “great opportunity” to create retail and upscale housing in the village at a site now occupied by a building he described as a “single story dungeon of retail” that has been vacant for more than a year.

“We desperately want housing that appeals to millennials and seniors,” he said.

Kulpa said he believed the apartments would appeal to “seniors with means” who no longer want to own their own home but would like to live in a well-appointed apartment in the heart of the village.

The IDA approved the tax breaks in a 4-2 vote, with board members Michelle Marconi and Carlton Brock opposing the incentives. Brock raised concerns about providing subsidies for what he described as a luxury housing project.

“I’m just concerned we’re outpricing the average person,” he said.

While retail and market-rate housing projects generally are not eligible for tax breaks, the project qualified for incentives because it is in a designated neighborhood enhancement zone, said James Allen, the IDA’s executive director.

Allen said redevelopment projects typically are more expensive for developers to undertake than greenfield developments. The Bevilacqua project is located on a brownfield site.

“It’s very costly,” he said. “This project, as a greenfield site someplace, we probably wouldn’t do.”

Marconi, however, questioned the need for taxpayer incentives. “Why is it necessary for the taxpayers to provide an incentive at this level in order to provide a profit” for the developer?, he said.

The 1.7-acre site is located across from Williamsville South High School at the corner of Main Street and Richfield Road. Bevilacqua plans to create space for as many as seven potential retail tenants on the first floor, which will have a total of about 15,000 square feet of leasable space. Construction is expected to begin early next year.

The tax breaks cover the cost of construction associated with the shell of the building and the apartments, but do not include any costs tied to building out the first floor retail space for any tenants that might agree to move in. The retail portion of the project is expected to account for about 22 percent of the $9.2 million in total costs, making it eligible for incentives because it is below the 33 percent limit on retail components set by state law.

Despite the tax breaks, the project is expected to generate nearly $1.4 million in additional school, county and town taxes over the 10-year period covered by the incentives.

“This property has been an eyesore for the past 30-plus years,” said IDA board member Aaron Stanley.

The IDA also approved $184,000 in tax breaks for a $2.7 million project by Nidus Development Co. to buy and renovate an 18,125-square-foot office building at 2150 Wehrle Drive that will be the new home of Nidus’ headquarters and back-office operations, along with space rented to the Visiting Nurses Association and Premier Mortgage.

Nidus, which will be moving from an office in Clarence, said it could not find suitable space in that community and had considered moving the work to Maryland or Georgia, where it also has development properties, Allen said.

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