Mancuso: Destruction of Wiard Plow building is set back for redevelopment
The destruction of one of the Wiard Plow buildings in a massive fire Saturday will have the Mancuso Business Development Group going back to the drafting table, said owner Tom Mancuso on Monday night.
The very structure that was destroyed, despite its deteriorated condition, was a key building in redevelopment plans, Mancuso said.
"There's a lot to sort out and I still haven't processed it all yet," Mancuso said. "We need to understand what steps we need to take. We'll need to take some time and re-evaluate the viability of redevelopment."
Mancuso and the City of Batavia received a grant from RestoreNY for the Masse Gateway Project last year, which is the first phase of redevelopment of the million-plus square feet of industrial buildings that encompass the Harvester Center, the Masse building and the Wiard Plow structures.
Masse Gateway is intended to open an attractive entryway, featuring renovated Masse buildings off of Masse Place, into the entire Masse-Harvester-Wiard complex.
While the fire won't disrupt the Masse Gateway plans, Mancuso said, the building that was destroyed would have been redeveloped as early as phase two, and certainly by phase three.
The building was included in a RestoreNY grant that was rejected by the state a few years ago, Mancuso said, stressing its importance to his redevelopment plans.
"Now we have to move forward," Mancuso said. "I just don't know as we speak what that looks like."
The Wiard Plow building loss was a stunning blow, Mancuso admitted. When the buildings were acquired by the Mancuso Group in the 1980s it was with the intention to eventually redevelop the property, he said.
Mancuso even turned down offers a few years ago from construction firms that wanted to recover the beams in the building. Those developers offered to take the building down at no cost just to remove the heavy timber, but Mancuso turned down those offers because redevelopment rather than destruction was the goal.
"We bought the building to keep it from being torn down, so it is hard," Mancuso said. "It's not the way we wanted to see it go."
As for the bricks, which some people have speculated have some value, he said those evaluations might be overstated, but he would certainly entertain purchase offers for the old masonry.
Even as he takes a look at the viability of redevelopment, Mancuso said he is hopeful there will be a way to move forward.
UPDATE: In a comment on another post, Dennis Wight posted a link to the Masse Swan Village planning document (PDF) available on the City of Batavia's Web site. It clearly shows that the building destroyed in the fire was not intended to be one of the buildings left standing in the renovated complex. When we spoke last night, Tom Mancuso said he was leaving town for a few days. I have, however, left messages for him. I'll try to clarify this issue with him the next time we can talk.
Photo: One of the last photos ever taken from inside the Wiard Plow factory. It was snapped by The Batavian following a 1:40 p.m. fire on Saturday -- six hours before the second, more destructive fire. For the other three final photos available, click here