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Developer Steve McGarvey's invasion of downtown Buffalo is expanding with the former M. Wile & Co. plant at 77 Goodell St., his latest conquest.

The 31-year-old Erie, Pa., resident, who arrived last spring to buy the massive Trico complex, said Tuesday he plans to purchase the M. Wile building across from Trico and renovate it into a $10 million office development.

Should the M. Wile sale go through as expected, McGarvey's domain will encompass a three-block area on the north edge of downtown with 750,000 square feet of buildings and 1,260 parking spaces -- square footage the size of the Boulevard Mall.

McGarvey, whose philosophy of financing projects privately sets him apart from many developers, said his ideas are finding a receptive market here. He plans to convert the Trico complex into 300 apartments and 100,000 square feet of office space.

"We've had an amazing amount of commercial interest," the developer said. "Personally, I also consider the opportunities for housing downtown to be extraordinarily strong."

Mayor Masiello said McGarvey's latest investment is another sign of confidence in downtown.

"In this case, you have an outsider who sees enormous potential here," the mayor said. "He sees it and I'm thrilled he does."

Construction on the M. Wile project, which McGarvey plans to call "77 Goodell St.," and the $24 million Trico project is expected to begin in March 2000. Two tenants already are signed on for the Trico space, ClientLogic and Digicon Imaging, and McGarvey said he has a half-dozen leads on users for 77 Goodell.

As for the apartments, "I've talked to all kinds of people and there is overwhelming interest in those apartments and people ask when they'll be available," he said. "The whole thing is snow-balling on the interest side and that's credibility on the grass-roots level."

The sale of the M. Wile building is expected to be completed by January. McGarvey wouldn't disclose the purchase cost, but the asking price was $1.2 million, broker James Militello said. McGarvey paid $2.1 million for the Trico complex.

M. Wile & Co. vacated the 77 Goodell St. building this spring, moving 350 jobs to its main plant at 3030 Elmwood Ave. The North Buffalo site, also the company's headquarters, cuts and assembles men's suits with about 650 workers.

Although McGarvey likes to mix his renovation projects with both residential and office uses to create a 24-hour environment, the floor plan of the 160,000-square-foot M. Wile building does not lend itself to conversion to apartments.

Instead, he has decided to rehabilitate the floors for office users and build a 10,000-square-foot addition on the front of the Goodell side of the building. Most of the new space will be an atrium, although the top floor will be a conference center.

It is expected to be topped off with large "77" numerals that will be visible by approaching motorists on the Kensington Expressway. Both the Trico and M. Wile buildings flank Goodell Street, one of the main entrances to downtown.

McGarvey also is adjusting his development plan for the Trico building to take advantage of the commercial interest. Some of the floor plans are being adjusted to free up more room for commercial uses while retaining the same number of apartments.

He also plans to locate a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot bar and restaurant in the Trico building at the corner of Goodell and Ellicott streets. McGarvey envisions a theme that would feature dueling pianos, something that has worked well at a similar development in Erie.

The key to his plans for the Trico complex and now the M. Wile building, he said, is the large amount of surface parking associated with the structures. That allows him to compete with the suburban office market and its acres of convenient parking.

He projected that rents will be in the range of $8 to $8.50 per square foot.

Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place, noted that McGarvey's projects are strategically located between the central business district and medical complex along High Street that includes Buffalo General Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

"These are high-profile buildings," Schmand said. "I think he's in front of the curve on this."

Alan DeLisle, president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., a city development agency, said McGarvey's plans fit well with the city's hope of drawing medical and information technology firms into that area.

"It brings on line a creative owner with experience who can work with us on developing these market niches," he said.

McGarvey, whose company specializes in redevelopment projects and owns more than 3 million square feet of real estate in four states, said he's been pleased with his reception in Buffalo so far.

"You have a basic commitment of the people of Buffalo to downtown," he said, "a broad-based desire to see it come back."

News Business Reporter Fred Williams contributed to this report.

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