Schumer & Higgins Push GSA to Ensure that the Next Owner of Dillon Courthouse Gets the Building Up and Running Quickly and Doesn’t Let it Continue to Sit Vacant
Schumer & Higgins Fight to See that Dillon Reuse Project is the Right Fit for the City of Buffalo & Niagara Square
Schumer & Higgins: Don’t Let Dillon Become a Black Hole
New York – September 30, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) are calling on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to guard against land speculation and to consider community and economic impact in their sale of the vacant Dillon Courthouse. Schumer and Higgins pointed to previous examples where developers have purchased buildings in Buffalo with no plans for immediate reuse, noting the detrimental impact that can have on the community, and urged GSA to prevent that scenario with the Dillon Courthouse. Specifically, when reviewing proposals from potential future owners of the Michael J. Dillon United States Courthouse building, the Senator and Congressman called on GSA to consider not just the price but also the long-term community benefits, as well as the developer’s or project sponsor’s ability to deliver on their goals.
“The Dillon Courthouse sits on prime real estate, in the center of the City of Buffalo, which is seeing unprecedented growth and development, so we must make sure the next entity that takes over this property will move quickly to ensure that the property does not sit vacant any longer,” said Senator Schumer. “GSA can help accomplish that goal and ensure the best outcome for Buffalo by factoring in the community impacts, including the next owner’s ability to immediately put Dillion Courthouse into active use.”
“After sitting vacant for 4 years, this community is eager to see action on the Dillon Courthouse,” said Congressman Higgins. “This location is an important center point for our City and we want the next property holder to have sincere intentions to move quickly with a reuse plan that is in the best interests of this community.”
Last week the GSA announced that it will move forward with plans to divest the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse from its inventory and begin the process of considering the transfer or sale of the property. As part of that process GSA will solicit proposals from a number of entities including other federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private developers. The Senator and Congressman urged GSA to take into account community and economic impact as they review those proposals and do everything in their power to ensure that the selected proposal is achieved quickly so that the building can return to use as soon as possible.
The Dillon Courthouse has remained vacant since the opening of the new Robert H. Jackson Federal Courthouse in 2011. The unique pentagonal, 7-story, 183,000 square foot building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits on Niagara Square, the hub of Buffalo’s Joseph Ellicott designed radial street grid, which is also home to Buffalo City Hall, Statler Towers, the Mahoney State Office Building and the new Jackson Federal Courthouse.
Below is the text of the letter from Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins:
Dear Administrator Roth:
We write to discuss the General Services Administration (GSA) disposal of the Dillon Courthouse building in Buffalo, New York. We urge you to choose a developer proposal that would have a significant amount of community and economic impact, and to build into the sale covenants requirements for investment and smart reuse to help prevent against land speculation and underutilization.
The Dillon Courthouse is located in a prime location in downtown Buffalo, and could serve a number of purposes that could benefit the community and boost economic development in the city. The building has undergone several upgrades in recent years, including new elevators, a roof replacement, and the installation of a 150 kilowatt generator. Despite being constructed in 1936, the Dillon Courthouse was recently given an energy efficiency rating higher than many modern buildings.
It is our understanding that GSA received several responses to last year’s Request for Information (RFI) with ideas for developing and providing a new use for the Dillon Courthouse. As you evaluate the responses and make a final decision, we urge you to take community and economic impacts of each proposal into account. In scoring the proposals, the GSA should award additional points to proposals that would most benefit the community, even if they are not necessarily the highest dollar offer. We also urge you to ensure that you choose a developer that will make active use of the Dillon Courthouse, instead of simply speculating on the property and leaving it dormant for years.
Buffalo and all of Western New York is currently in the midst of an impressive revitalization. After years of decline and a lack of new investment, today Buffalo is seeing impressive growth and transformation. That revitalization has helped to transform a number of sites throughout Buffalo that had long been vacant into new hubs of energy and activity. In an effort to help build on that success GSA should do everything in its power to ensure that the Dillon Courthouse is quickly put into valuable re-use and does not become a step backward or a black hole in an otherwise growing downtown.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
Member of Congress