The developer for the Slingerlands Vista Technology Campus is now unsure if the organ regeneration research company Breonics will be the first technology tenant for the park, and he’s placing the blame squarely with the town agency managing tax breaks there.
On Friday, July 26, the Bethlehem’s Industrial Development Agency discussed updates for various projects within Vista. Chairman Frank Venezia said at the meeting he had no new information about the proposed $5.5 million building at 65 Vista Blvd., which is meant to house the campus’ first tech tenants, including Breonics. Construction on the building was originally pitched to allow Breonics to move when its lease at the state’s Harriman Research Center ended in August.
But in an interview conducted after that meeting Columbia Development Companies President Joseph Nicolla said the project has stalled as the two companies negotiate a lease. He attributed the problem to the IDA’s approval process for tax abatements.
“We may lose Breonics, because we had to say who they were before the lease was signed,” said Nicolla. “Because it became public knowledge, other competitors became involved.”
Nicolla said because Breonics may pull out of the project, he has put construction of the building on hold. He said Columbia is still in negotiations with other companies to lease space within the building, but he’s no longer rushing the project and would like to have leases signed before going back to the IDA.
“I had a lot of momentum for this project and it was just taken right away from me. This was really good thinking on (the IDA’s) part,” Nicolla said sarcastically. “I would call this tragic.”
Venezia said while the IDA gave the project approval for an advanced property tax abatement, the deal has not been closed because leases haven’t been signed. Columbia Development still owns the land, and there is no timetable set by the agency. If a tech company is not brought in that meets the specs outlined by the IDA, the abatement would be terminated.
“The incentive is for the building that gets built on the property,” said Venezia. “We are going to be pressing (Nicolla) for an update on the project moving forward. It’s up to him to bring in the tenant and sign the tenant.”
Breonics Director of Operations Philip Glowacki said although the company did hire a broker to negotiate its interests in the lease with Columbia Development, the company’s intention was still to move to Vista. Breonics President Ernie Green could not be reached for comment.
Breonics Inc. is an Albany company specializing in organ regeneration research. It had been proposed the company would occupy part of a 27,000-square-foot building on a plot behind the ShopRite grocery store at Vista.
Green had previously said the biomedical research and development company was interested in moving to Vista because the next phase in their research requires clean rooms to be built. They were looking for a new space that was customizable to their needs for a new clinical trial involving the regeneration of kidney tissue for transplant patients.
Venezia said if the deal between Breonics and Columbia Developments falls through, there is no risk to the town because the IDA hasn’t closed on the project.
“The fact is, we’re dealing with public money so we can’t keep these things quiet,” said Venezia. “We need to know the company meets the requirements for abatements that are put in place by the IDA (before a decision is made.)”
Venezia said Nicolla needs to come back before the IDA to discuss any future tech tenants for 65 Vista Blvd. if the deal with Breonics falls through. If Nicolla doesn’t wish to name the tenants, the IDA may be able to go into executive session to discuss the project, but Venezia said that matter would need to be discussed by the agency’s members.
Nicolla, however, seems frustrated with the entire process.
“This just goes to show you what happens when other people think they are developers, and they are not,” said Nicolla.