The properties of the Mancuso Business Development Group on Harvester Avenue and Masse Place have been sold to a New Jersey-based company.
The Batavian has learned that a venture headed by the father-son team of John F. Wachter Jr. and John F. Wachter III has purchased The Harvester Center Business Incubator Center at 56 Harvester Ave., the Joseph Mancuso Building at 26 Harvester Ave., and two Masse Place facilities.
Currently, there are around 70 tenants in the buildings – businesses, storage areas and personal use spaces.
On Saturday, MBDG President B. Thomas Mancuso sent a letter to tenants, confirming the sale:
“I am excited and grateful to announce that the Wachter family has purchased the Harvester Center and will be a force driving the success and progress into the future. You will hear directly from them and their plans in the very near future.
“As the Harvester Center moves into the next phase of its service to our community’s economic well-being, I want to thank you for your presence and ongoing efforts to succeed here. My father, Joseph L. Mancuso, spent decades of his life helping people start and grow businesses of all sorts and sizes.
“We are pleased to know that the new owners have a track record for helping companies improve their performance and now they are bringing their energy to Batavia.”
Credited as the world’s first business incubator, The Harvester Center BIC is a mixed-use industrial building that was founded by Joseph L. Mancuso in August 1959. The concept behind the development was to create a building that would attract various types of small, emerging and established businesses and afford those businesses an opportunity to grow.
Today, the company’s four-parcel complex contains about 960,000 square feet of industrial and commercial buildings on 29 acres. More than 3,000 businesses have been housed at the Harvester Center BIC since 1959.
The Mancuso Business Development Group also manages companies in Lockport and Buffalo.
About four years ago, VIP Structures of Syracuse – a development, architectural and engineering firm – assisted Mancuso Business Development Group and Batavia Development Corp. with a property condition report and preliminary design.
That led to a feasibility study and drafting of a Master plan for a mixed-use space to further the Batavia Opportunity Area and the City of Batavia’s vision of a redeveloped and revitalized Harvester Center BIC.
According to the VIP Structures website, the study was done “to advance the redevelopment goals set in the BOA plan. These include: to improve parking, vehicular and pedestrian/bike circulation, open up space and right size the facility while maintaining character, encourage a mix of uses including loft housing, and take advantage of rail access.”
The BDC’s annual report covering 2016-17 listed two favorable options:
(1) Live-Work Redevelopment: Demolish obsolete, deteriorating buildings, reinvent innovation zones, introduce new creative retail spaces, add mixed-income loft housing flanked by creative courtyards;
(2) Multi-Tenant Warehouse: Build a new 100,000-plus-square-foot building that will meet modern day requirements for today’s industrial tenants.
City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski on Saturday said the site is a "major hub for employment and has so much potential."
"I have personally worked with the previous owner of the campus for many years in hopes of redevelopment of this brownfield historical campus and am in awe of the sheer dedication and perseverance of Tom Mancuso to keep this campus going throughout the years. I wish him all the best in his future pursuits," she said.
Tabelski said that a feasibility study conducted by the city and BDC has spurred different projects on the Harvester campus over the years, including the Masse Place redevelopment through a Restore New York Grant, designating the campus as a Brownfield Opportunity Area site through the New York State Department of State, a feasibility study for redevelopment funded by Empire State Development, as well as the designation of the campus in a federally recognized Opportunity Zone.
"I can’t wait to learn what the new ownership will do to revitalize the historic campus, and look forward to meeting with the new ownership in the near future," she said.
Photo: The Harvester Center buildings on Harvester Avenue.