The Dunkirk Local Development Corp. has put out a request for proposals on the former bank building it recently acquired at 401-03 Central Ave.
“Plans for this development envision a mixed use commercial with the potential for one residential unit in the second floor rear of the building,” according to the request, which is due Dec. 12.
Vince DeJoy, DLDC Director, said in an interview at the site this week that he is open to any reasonable ideas for the building.
He acknowledged the request for proposals is “a very short window and we’re looking to see if we can get some interest in it.” The reason for the short window is that DeJoy hopes to add the property to a Restore NY grant application due at year’s end.
After First Niagara left the property years ago, “a speculator investor bought the property and didn’t pay any taxes,” DeJoy said. The building sat abandoned while the DLDC acquired it through a lengthy tax foreclosure process.
“We’re not looking for someone to buy this property and sit on it,” DeJoy said. “We’re looking for a project. We’ll sell for below market value (which is $50,000) if there is a good project.”
He added, “We need a developer to see through the whole process — development through certificate of occupancy.”
Erected in 1938, the building is still outfitted as a First Niagara branch, frozen in time. False ceilings hide a soaring, atrium-type space. The original bank vault is still in place — DeJoy assured that all the deposit boxes have been checked.
“This is an iconic, important piece of property,” he said. “It could have a very historical type look to it.”
It fits into DeJoy’s vision for a revived Central Avenue, which also centers around the former Ehlers furniture store across the street — a project he also promoted to the OBSERVER this month.
“This block could be the block that reignites Dunkirk,” he said.
The full request for proposals is on the DLDC website. The property can be shown by appointment.