December 4, 2022

BY JONATHAN D. EPSTEIN
Sept. 28, 2022
Gilbane Building Co. has seen plenty of construction projects over its 150 years. But it’s not every day that it has to construct a relatively small building that still has the mechanical and structural capability to handle a two-story, 295-ton press to crush minerals into ceramics powder.
That’s what the company had to do in Buffalo over the last year for Surmet Corp., an industrial manufacturer that specializes in producing transparent ceramics for armor, reconnaissance windows for aircraft, sensor windows, lenses and other purposes for the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Gilbane Building Co. used this crane to hoist part of a 295-ton ceramics press into a new building it constructed for Surmet Corp. on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.
Surmet, based in Burlington, Mass., has operated a 75,000-square-foot plant at 699 Hertel Ave. in Buffalo since 2002, but received Air Force funding in 2018 to create an integrated facility for producing transparent ceramics. The company hired Gilbane to build a 3,400-square-foot, specially engineered addition to house new production furnaces and a customized press that is the biggest of its kind in North America.
The $14.5 million project – funded by the company and the government – also included some upgrades to existing infrastructure and renovations to the rest of the production facility. But two-thirds of the cost was the equipment, which had to be lifted into the building in pieces by an overhead crane. The expansion also will create additional professional engineering and manufacturing jobs.
Dr. Santosh Jha, director of operations at Surmet, mingles outside the just completed 3,400-square-foot building to house specialized for a U.S. Defense Department contract, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)
“We are ready to go and start using the equipment,” said Santosh Jha, Surmet’s director of operations.
The project began in August 2021, and finished in July 2022, despite pandemic-related supply chain challenges.
John Cleary of Gilbane Building, left, and Dr.Santosh Jha, director of operations at Surmet, mingle outside a 3,400-square-foot building to house specialized for a U.S. Defense Department contract, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)
“It was a great project, and having the partnership with Santosh and Surmet really made for an enjoyable project,” said John K.S. Cleary, Gilbane’s senior project executive for upstate New York and head of its Buffalo office. “During Covid and supply chain issues, this project is a shining star for us. You had a 10-ton crane overhead and a very large truss, so it had some unique items to it.”
– Jonathan D. Epstein
Want to know more? Three stories to catch you up:
• Two Erie County companies awarded 10 years of low-cost hydropower
• ECIDA backs adaptive-reuse, manufacturing projects
• Pinto Construction plans new Dingens warehouse; Sahlens targets expansion
Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.
Further renovations are coming to the buildings at 612 Northland Ave., the former site of the Albright-Knox Northland gallery.
What: The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. will be receiving $14.4 million of the $25 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant that Empire State Development Corp. was awarded for Western New York from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The funds will be used for the Northland Corridor Redevelopment Project that BUDC has been spearheading on Buffalo’s East Side.
Tell me more: The federal funds will pay for:
• Renovation of a 44,000-square-foot industrial building at 541 E. Delavan Ave., including significant environmental cleanup, site work and new “green” infrastructure for stormwater management, a rooftop solar energy system and a battery storage system. The work will prepare the building for one or more future tenants, which could support 90 jobs when full.
• Renovation of the 10,000-square-foot “B” building at 612 Northland Ave., to provide leasable space for one or two tenants, with about 30 jobs. The 15,000-square-foot “A” portion of the building was renovated previously.
• Implementation of a clean-energy microgrid, including new energy-generation and storage equipment.
• Construction of 120 new parking spaces at 714 Northland and the south lot next to the Northland Central building at 683 Northland.
The work must begin within 24 months, and must finish within 48 months, but no later than May 28, 2027.
Why it matters: The money will cover the majority of $18 million in work planned for multiple buildings on the Northland campus, which is anchored by the Western New York Workforce Training Center and Buffalo Manufacturing Works. The remaining $3.6 million will be paid by the state, through BUDC.
Erie County is restarting its in-rem tax foreclosure auction again, for the first time since 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and nearly 1,000 properties are slated to go up for public sale on Oct. 6.
Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns and the Western New York Law Center want to make sure that affected homeowners and tenants know their rights and what resources may be available to help them before they potentially lose their residence.
“Free help is available for property owners who are behind on their taxes and for tenants who may be forced out due to their landlord’s unpaid taxes,” Kearns said.
A full list of properties slated to be auctioned can be found at Erie County’s Real Property Tax Services website, at erie.gov/ecrpts. Homeowners who are facing tax foreclosure can call the law center at 716-855-0203, Ext. 124. Tenants fearing eviction can call the WNY Eviction Program at 844-230-7376.
“If your home does sell at the auction, there may be surplus funds you can apply for and we can assist you in that process,” said Kate Lockhart, Vacant and Abandoned Property Program director for the Law Center.
Recent news tied to Buffalo Niagara’s economy
Workers at food supplier Sysco in Depew and elsewhere in upstate New York went on strike to protest what they described as unfair labor practices.
Developer Douglas Jemal wants to tear down an Ellicott Street building as part of his plan to bring more than 600 apartments and retail space to the neighborhood.
The transformation of the old Record Theatre property on Main Street into The Monroe has begun.
M&T Bank continues to be the biggest local bank, as measured by total deposits, and it’s not even close.
Natale Development is wrapping up work on its $5.6 million project to renovate the former Aldrich and Ray Manufacturing Co. building on Niagara Street.
Sinatra & Co. has sold one of its first big investments in Buffalo Niagara real estate – the Fenton Village Apartments.
Brace yourself: Home heating bills are forecast to soar by 50% this winter, National Fuel Gas predicts.
Five reads from Buffalo Next:
1. The Buffalo Niagara housing market has cooled down a little, but it is holding up well, compared with other U.S. markets.
2. Kaleida Health officials had hoped for millions in state funding to help narrow its big deficit during the current fiscal year. It won’t happen. The money is already spoken for.
3. Made in WNY: Junk Free Skin cutting plastic from bath products: With this new technology, Junk Free Skin is reducing plastic use in personal care products by more than 80%, owner Tom Akers said.
4. How sponsorships bring big money to sports teams, marketing opportunities for companies: For the companies, it is a chance to use the professional sports team as a marketing tool. For the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, it’s a way to bring in more marketing revenue.
5. The Buffalo Niagara job market got back on track during August, with hiring resuming at its fastest pace since March and easing concerns that surfaced after the July jobs report showed a loss of jobs across the region.
The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Buying a building? Redeveloping a property? Got a tip? Reach Real Estate & Development reporter Jonathan D. Epstein at 716-849-4478 or email him at jepstein@buffnews.com.
Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com.
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I’ve been a business reporter at The Buffalo News since 2004, now covering residential and commercial real estate and development amid WNY’s resurgence. I’m an upstate native, proud to call Buffalo my home, and committed to covering it thoroughly.
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Gilbane Building Co. used this crane to hoist part of a 295-ton ceramics press into a new building it constructed for Surmet Corp. on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.
Further renovations are coming to the buildings at 612 Northland Ave., the former site of the Albright-Knox Northland gallery.
Dr. Santosh Jha, director of operations at Surmet, mingles outside the just completed 3,400-square-foot building to house specialized for a U.S. Defense Department contract, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)
John Cleary of Gilbane Building, left, and Dr.Santosh Jha, director of operations at Surmet, mingle outside a 3,400-square-foot building to house specialized for a U.S. Defense Department contract, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)
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