Having two callers at the door can be a problem when you're a young lady. When you're an older city in New York state, it's a nice situation to be in.
And that's just the situation the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation is in as two proposals for the development of the former Bertges car dealership lakefront building and property have been received in response to a request for proposals issued by the DLDC.
Both Dunkirk Boardwalk Phase II project proposals have come from proven developers who were present Tuesday morning as the DLDC met at the SUNY Fredonia Incubator in what was called a 'continuation' of its Nov. 16 meeting.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
At left are David and Brian Burke of Burke Homes, L.L.C. On the right are Paul H. Werthman, P.E., Michael Lesakowski and Paul Werthman of the Benchmark/Krog Corp. proposal team. At far right is Dunkirk Mayor Richard Frey.
Burke Homes, LLC, the developers of the Chadwick Bay Lofts, was represented by its president David Burke and by Brian Burke, the vice president of E/F Burke Realty Co.
The other presenters were from the Krog Corp. and Benchmark Environmental Engineering & Science, a two-company group looking to be a part of the city's waterfront development efforts. Krog Corp. is in the process, along with the Cliffstar Corporation, of developing the Roberts Road site that formerly housed several manufacturing plants. Paul Werthman, P.E. and Michael Lesakowski represented Benchmark while Paul Neureuter represented Krog Corp.
As required by the RFP the DLDC issued, the proposals contained a letter of intent, the development team and its experience, a project proposal and approach, a financial analysis and what will be requested in the way of municipal assistance, among other items.
The two RFPs took a different approach.
"Burke did a very detailed plan and the Krog proposal took the tact that they are outlining their qualifications and concepts in a collaborative process," DLDC Administrative Director and Dunkirk Development Director Kory Ahlstrom said.
He explained the difference was the doing of the DLDC in that the RFP was written more as a request for qualifications in an effort to encourage people to reply.
Each developer gave a brief presentation followed by questioning from board members in attendance. Burke Homes, L.L.C. went first.
"It was our intent to provide a comprehensive package to show a reuse of an existing venue in the Dunkirk area," Brian Burke said. "We want to capitalize on the existing success that has taken place at the Boardwalk. We want to be respectful of the architectural integrity that I think you've tried to carry on throughout all the projects. ... We have created a group of retail environments that would help foster growth and also create opportunities for new businesses in keeping with the existing Boardwalk. Those spaces range from 800 square foot on up to one space that would be 2,500 square foot."
He explained the 2,500 square foot space was designed for a food and beverage operation with access to a patio area to complement the existing area.
"The plans that are outlined here in the package are a basis for conversation. We're certainly more than willing to adjust and modify," Brian Burke stated. "We have had an opportunity to speak to a number of businesses in the area. We took their input and their interest and we put it into the package as much as possible, but it's our intent to ideally move fast and furiously on this.
"You look at the time line. We're prepared to move forward and actually be ready to go for the up and coming spring. We would have to obviously get started rather quickly and I think this meeting is probably a pretty good start to that process."
David Burke pointed out one major difference with the existing Boardwalk and their proposal.
"This facility, there's an interior corridor so this could be utilized in adverse conditions more easily than the other Boardwalk which has got access through patios," he said.
When the Burke brothers were finished, the Benchmark/Krog team made their pitch, with Werthman leading off.
"Collectively, between Krog and our company, we consider ourselves a premier Western New York developer and brownfields cleanup design builders," he said.
Some 500 acres of brownfields cleanup and over $100 million of development have been completed and Werthman added the two companies have done 10 projects together since 2005. He stated brownfields redevelopment provides an economic development tool.
Benchmark did the Phase I and II cleanup of the property under a competitive bidding contract.
Lesakowski gave a brief rundown on what was found, including an underground tank and said the state Department of Environmental Conservation would be involved in the final cleanup. He explained why the brownfields approach to the project would be useful.
"First, this is a redevelopment project and it's a redevelopment incentive," he began. "We clean up under a program with oversight by DEC and it provides lucrative benefits at the tail end in the form of reimbursable tax credits. ... At the end of the day we get a letter from New York state that says you did it the way we asked you to and you are hereby released from environmental liability. ... Entering into the program it provides lenders with some assurance that you're doing things 'the right way.'"
He added tax credits may also be available for 10 years if the brownfields method is used.
Krog Corp.'s Neureuter said a public-private partnership is really important and cited the Riverwalk Center in Jamestown as an example of what the group's specialty is.
"We focus on adaptive reuse, particularly on sites that have some environmental challenges. ... We take a very systematic approach. We try to understand thoroughly the context in which the development is going to occur," Neureuter said. "At the end of the day, it isn't what we do in the beginning, ... it's what's going to be long-term economically sustainable. This is not a dirty word, what is going to make the developer profitable and what's going to provide economic benefit to the community.
"That's the kind of collaboration and teamwork we like to promote on our development projects."
No decision was reached at the meeting and after Ahlstrom was asked when the developer will be chosen.
"I just told them we're going to try and do it before Christmas. We're going to try and get the board together in the next week or 10 days to do this because it's pretty important that some of the basic stuff be started soon," he replied. "There's a time lag on some of the DEC stuff that the sooner we start the sooner we get moving on."
The time lines for the Benchmark/Krog proposal indicated a 2012 finish, the Burke's proposal had a projected opening date of July 2011. Ahlstrom was asked about the difference.
"I think in the end they all probably track to the same date," he replied. "I don't know as if potentially the shorter date is feasible based on how quickly you get things out of Albany, although it's something to work toward and a goal."
Ahlstrom was pleased with one aspect of the process.
"I frankly thought it was an optimistic sign that we had two proposals from two very qualified developers, both with ties to properties in Dunkirk," he explained. "And that's, I think, a refreshing change for the area, to have developers competing for the right to be involved in a project as opposed to projects in the past where we've had to pitch pretty heavily to developers. Now we're seeing some of the groundwork and investment that we've laid in the community has worked so that they can see there's an economic opportunity and they're actually competing for the right to participate."
One of the two developers will get a Christmas present, one that will mean progress for the city of Dunkirk.
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