One Seneca Tower finds a serious buyer
September 7, 2016
News from upstate. The future of Buffalo’s tallest building, One Seneca Tower has been in question ever since it suffered a mass exodus of tenants in 2013. However, a fresh infusion of investment and redevelopment energy may be on its way following the building’s purchase by Washington, D.C.-based Douglas Development Corporation.
Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill designed the Brutalist, precast concrete building as the headquarters for Marine Midland Bank. Planning for the building began in the 1960s during Buffalo’s urban renewal program. Construction began in 1969 and was completed in 1972. Rising 38 stories beside the Buffalo River, the property dominates the skyline and offers excellent views of Lake Erie. Referred to as a “vertical village,” the site features space for offices, small shops, and restaurants, as well as a landscaped outdoor plaza containing the large-scale sculpture “Vroom Sh-Sh-Sh” by Ronald Bladen.
A number of developers had expressed interest in the property, but none were able to close on the deal. Douglas Jemal, president of Douglas Development, says the company has executed a purchase and sales agreement and points to the company’s experience with similar mixed-use redevelopment of historic buildings, such as the Central National Bank Building, an Art Deco building in Richmond, VA. Real estate experts have estimated that a successful renovation of One Seneca Tower could cost in excess of $100 million.
It is still too early to know how One Seneca Tower will play out in Buffalo’s current economic revitalization. Jemal has called the building a “massive slate of nothing” and “an iconic building,” and has mentioned the possibility of recladding the façade with glass. Prior to the sale some local officials and real estate leaders suggested demolition as a viable option. All reasons to stay tuned for actual plans. Overall, the possibility of an experienced developer bringing investment and revitalization to downtown Buffalo by way of a mid-century Modern corporate office building is a positive step.
“One Seneca Tower to see renovation,” wivb.com, August 16, 2016.
“One Seneca Tower has a solid buyer,” The Buffalo News, August 16, 2016.