After a year-long planning process, the City of Dunkirk and Chautauqua County, along with their consultant, Bergmann, presented key findings of the FFeasibility Study and Alternatives Analysis on Tuesday, June 8th.
The NRG Power Plant, originally known as the Niagara Mohawk Power Plant, operated from the 1950s until 2015. The plant was officially mothballed in 2016, with the decommissioning process beginning in 2020. The NRG Power Plant was an economic engine in the City of Dunkirk, contributing to approximately 40 percent of the City’s tax base and providing close to 150 well-paying jobs at its peak.
Bergmann, along with their sub-consultants, MRB Group, Brownfield Group, and Empire Building Diagnostics, was charged with exploring a series of re-use options that would ultimately bring this site back to a viable and sustainable use while catalyzing community revitalization efforts.
A redevelopment strategy for the NRG Power Plant site that mitigates direct and indirect impacts on the Dunkirk community is critical to the City’s long-term economic recovery. The study concluded that, overall, the redevelopment strategy for the NRG Power Plant would have the greatest benefits if it allowed the community to access workforce development opportunities, generated tax revenue, included a clean energy component, supported public access to the waterfront, and aided in comprehensive economic development for the region.
A market analysis was conducted to understand market conditions within the local and regional area that will aid in the facilitation of the site’s redevelopment. The study also included an inventory and analysis of existing conditions to understand the site’s opportunities and constraints related to redevelopment.
A total of seven site re-use alternatives were explored in the analysis. The alternatives presented did not represent an exhaustive list of options, but are intended to illustrate alternatives that are most likely to advance a viable redevelopment and improve the socio-economic characteristics of the City of Dunkirk and the Chautauqua County region. All alternatives have the ability to incorporate renewable energy components that can offset carbon emissions, which would be a preferred outcome.
Each alternative was identified based on an understanding of the following project goals: Create an active waterfront re-use that supports community revitalization; support expanded job opportunities for the local and regional economy; generate tax revenue for the local community; and incorporate environmental sustainability and renewable energy goals.
All potential re-use concepts explored present a unique opportunity to leverage the site’s locational advantage and accessible infrastructure and utilities, in order to create an economic driver in the City of Dunkirk. Two preferred re-use concepts include redeveloping the site as a data center, as well as an industrial use that also includes a data center.
The study also includes recommendations of immediate next steps that the City of Dunkirk and Chautauqua County should advance in order to better understand site/building constraints and future opportunities, to position the site for funding to facilitate redevelopment. These include: continuing to collaborate with NRG Energy; pursuing a Build-Ready Program Application through NYSERDA; conducting additional environmental investigations; investigating interconnection costs; completing energy modeling; collaborating with the NYS Climate Justice Working Group; and performing site marketing and promotion.
City of Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said, “I would like to thank our development team, our consultants, Bergmann Associates, and the County for their hard work on this project and look forward to working together towards a new use for this facility. I am hopeful that, with NRG contributing as a willing participant, we will work with federal, state, and county resources to find a new purpose for that site.”
Mark Geise, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and CCIDA CEO, said, “This effort represents a proactive approach that the City and County are taking, in close collaboration, to influence the return of an economically productive use of this site. While we have more work to do, this study identified site assets, opportunities, and constraints, and ultimately identified what we believe to be the highest and best uses for the site. Even though we are a long way from completing our mission, I look forward to continuing our collaborative process with Mayor Rosas and his team, as well as NRG, to realize a successful site reuse in the future.”
PJ Wendel, Chautauqua County Executive, said, “I thank the Department of Planning and Development and CCIDA for spearheading this effort in close collaboration with the City of Dunkirk to pursue a reuse study for this once vibrant power plant in the City of Dunkirk.”
The study was supported by a $60,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant with local matching funds committed by the City of Dunkirk, the County of Chautauqua Industrialm Development Agency (CCIDA), and the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation.