After spending approximately three hours changing roughly one-dozen words in a three page land disposition agreement, the Buffalo Common Council met in a session which lasted one minute and twenty one seconds, to unanimously approved a deal aimed at preserving the future job prospects for thousands of HSBC workers.
Approval came at 10:29 pm Thursday for the deal proposed by Mayor Byron Brown to sell the two acre, city owned Webster Block to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) for for $3.32 million.
The ECHDC would then be able to assist in developing the site on behalf of HSBC, which Brown claims is eyeing the parcel for the possible construction of an office building as the banking giant prepares to re-organize its operation centers throughout North America.
However, the land won't actually be transferred to the ECHDC unless HSBC actually decides to build there and commits to doing so before the end of the year. Otherwise, the deal is off.
Another part of the accord puts the Common Council on record as being in support of a move to sell another five acres of various parcels, mostly along the waterfront, west of HSBC Arena, and beneath the Skyway, to the ECHDC.
The council is not expected to vote on that part of the deal until it returns from its summer recess in September.
Brown has contended that if the land transfer deal wasn't completed by the end of this week HSBC could have left Buffalo, taking approximately 4,000 jobs with it.
HSBC has never confirmed that, saying in it's most recent statement to 2 On Your Side only that:
"As part of standard business practice, an RFP process is currently underway to review how HSBC's future real estate requirements in Buffalo will best be met. The company is currently looking at a range of options, one of which is to maintain the status quo. A public announcement will not be made for some time."
The company is considering its options in Western New York when its lease at the 38-story HSBC Tower expires at the end of 2013.
The Mayor said the bank needed an answer on the possibility of building on the Webster Block before a series of meetings scheduled to start soon in London England, where HSBC will map out its future.
At first, the mayor had insisted the city transfer all of its waterfront land, instead of a portion of it, over to the ECHDC. But the council had insisted on transferring only the Webster block, and the mayor eventually agreed.
"I didn't retreat from (my) position," Brown said. "But I think the most pressing concern right now is to protect 4,000 jobs in Downtown Buffalo ...we needed to get this done, and as I said yesterday (Wednesday) I would take the leadership to make sure we moved this option forward so that HSBC would consider this location that they seem to be very interested in."
Despite the completion of the deal which both side agree may well turn out to be critical to HSBC's future here, it appears there are remaining wounds.
While pleased that the measure passed, Brown told WGRZ-TV, "sadly the community and the media got to see the petty politics that the council plays out on a regular basis, at least the five members of the council that held this up for this period of time ...they took this decision to the brink."
"That's how government works," countered Common Council President David Franczyk. "It's lot of give and take and a lot of compromise because no one has all the power. No one can make unilateral decisions so we as the Common Council wanted to make sure an agreement was there that would protect citizen interests in the waterfront," Franczyk said.