Three federal government agencies currently are looking in the Buffalo area for more than 95,000 square feet of office space and additional room for parking.
The search is welcome news to local building owners and real estate brokers. The market is flat; downtown's vacancy rate is believed to be well over 20 percent.
Two of the agencies, the Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have publicly advertised for interested building owners and developers to respond.
The third, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, is farther along in the process, and currently is putting together the final draft of its solicitation of offers. The INS then will forward its specifications to the General Services Administration, the federal government's space procurer, which will contact the ad respondents that meet the criteria and ask for a request for proposals.
INS, like its government siblings, is being pushed out of its current space due to the expansion of the federal courts. The agency is looking for between 35,400 and 37,100 net usable square feet of office space, a 32.5 percent increase over its current 18,369 square feet at 68 Court St. and 8,330 square feet in the Ansonia Centre. INS also needs 18,000 square feet to 18,900 square feet for about 60 parking spaces.
"Our requirements are that we be located in a fairly tight area around the courts," said John Clarke, director of facilities and space management for the INS Eastern Region, based in Burlington, Vt. "We also want to consolidate our offices."
In spite of the space increase, Clarke said no new employees would be added to the current 152.
For the Department of Defense, this is the second time this year the agency has placed ads concerning new space for its Defense Contract Administration Services Management Area Group. The previous search excluded downtown and brought loud cries of protest from both the public and private sector. This time, downtown is included.
"I feel very good that the Department of Defense has included the downtown area in its latest advertisements," said Richard T. Reinhard, executive director of Buffalo Place Inc., the not-for-profit organization that manages and promotes the 24-block area surrounding Buffalo's transit mall.
Reinhard and his organization helped spearhead the campaign that forced the Defense Department to cancel its initial search for new space.
The search for new Defense Department space is confined on the north by Sheridan Drive, the east by Transit Road, and the west by Marine Drive-Staats Street/Elmwood Avenue-Edwards Street-Delaware Avenue, Delevan Avenue, Main Street, North Bailey Avenue, and Grover Cleveland Highway (Route 263). The southern boundary is Genesee Street (Route 33), the Thruway, the Niagara section of the Thruway, Hamburg Street, South Street, St. Clair, Tifft Street, Ohio Street and South Park Avenue.
While the geographic boundaries have grown, the space needed has not. The defense contracts office still requires between 12,900 and 13,550 net usable square feet. Local ads did not specify the number of square feet needed for parking.
All 130 employees currently housed in the Thaddeus Dulski Federal Office Building at 111 W. Huron St. would shift to the new facility.
The FBI hopes not only to expand its current 21,000 square feet of office space in the Dulski building, but also to consolidate its office space with its light vehicle maintenance facility near the Greater Buffalo International Airport.
Specifications call for between 38,640 and 40,572 net usable square feet, plus an additional 15,600 net usable square feet of secured indoor parking. The bureau also needs about 3,000 square feet of outdoor space.
The geographic boundaries for the FBI's new location are on the north, Virginia Street to Main; on the east, Transit Road; on the west, Virginia Street and the Thruway, and on the south, the Thruway to South Park Avenue, to Michigan Avenue, to the Thruway, to Bailey Avenue, to William Street, to Union Road, to Bennett Road, to Cuomo Park Boulevard.
A number of property owners already have responded, or are expected to respond soon to either one, two or all three requests. Among them are Greg Davis, representing Sam and Bernie Tuchman, owners of the Central Terminal complex, and Robert F. Stuart Jr., general manager in Buffalo for Hammerson Management Corp., which owns the Liberty Building, Main Place Mall and Empire Tower.
"We certainly will respond to the FBI request," Stuart said. "There aren't that many buildings which have that much space on one floor. As for the 3,000 square feet for outdoor parking, we'll see."
Ellicott Square building owner Carl Paladino also has said he will bid everything put out. He hopes to entice some of the public-sector tenants to his proposed Court Street Tower, at Franklin, Court and Pearl streets.