BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A crucial decision was made Tuesday morning will help make HARBORcenter a reality. It's a multi-million dollar plan to turn an empty lot into a hockey fans' paradise.
One of the final hurdles for the Buffalo Sabres and the downtown HARBORcenter was the Erie County Industrial Development Agency approving tax incentives worth millions of dollars. You could say the Sabres ownership scored a goal of their own.
In front of a packed crowd and local politicians, the Buffalo Sabres were approved for a 10-year pilot program for what's believed to be nearly $28 million worth of tax incentives for their downtown HARBORcenter.
One of the major advocates for developing the space was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
Brown said, "It's expected to draw over 500,000 additional visitors to the city of Buffalo and Canalside annually. This project will also employ over 1,600 people in the construction industry."
The proposed $170 million project includes a 200-room hotel, approximately 850 parking spaces, retail shopping, a themed restaurant and two hockey rinks. The Sabres are expecting their HARBORcenter will generate $56 million in new state and local taxes over a 10-year period.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he originally was planning on voting against the tax breaks, questioning the Sabres, and specifically billionaire Terry Pegula's need for public money. But Poloncarz changed his mind.
Poloncarz said, "After careful consideration and discussing with others, I am going to vote in the affirmative because I believe this project is the type of project that we need to send to the rest of the world, that we can do things right in this community and that's why I'll be voting yes."
The vote was unanimously approved. The Sabres Development group say they're grateful to have the backing of the ECIDA.
Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson said, "We have always viewed this as a community project. We're doing this to enhance the community, we're doing this to build up canalside, to it's great to have."
The Sabres are still planning on breaking ground March 1st. They still have two more votes ahead of them, which both take place Tuesday. They'll go before the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for a design review and later Tuesday afternoon, the Buffalo Common Council will be voting on the land acquisition of what currently is the Webster Block.
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