HSBC Tower losing its signs, getting a new name - The Buffalo News

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HSBC Tower losing its signs, getting a new name

HSBC Bank USA is taking down its logo from Buffalo’s tallest skyscraper this week, and the building’s owners want to change the name and address of the 38-story landmark to One Seneca Tower.

Seneca One Realty LLC will ask the Buffalo Common Council to approve the address change of the 850,000-square-foot tower from One HSBC Center, which it has been called since 1994, said Seneca One Chief Operating Officer Stephen Fitzmaurice. HSBC is in the process of moving out.

One of the building’s technical addresses has always been One Seneca Street, so the new name comes from the street on which the building’s main entrance and plaza fronts.

The new name would also provide flexibility for the future, either for a mixed-use conversion, or if Seneca One is able to retain a major new commercial tenant that wants its own naming rights.

Fitzmaurice said the request is being advanced in the Common Council by Fillmore District Council Member David A. Franczyk, who confirmed that the resolution will be ready for the next Council meeting Sept. 17.

Meanwhile, a contractor hired by the U.S. subsidiary of London-based HSBC Holdings Plc will begin work this week to remove the red-and-white hexagon and the bank’s four-letter name from the sides of the massive concrete structure.

The work, which is weather-dependent, will occur over the course of a few days, according to the bank and Seneca One. The building’s current name will remain until Oct. 31, at which time the “One HSBC Center” signs will also come down, and new signs will go up, Fitzmaurice said.

He said the owners hope to have a new approved address by Nov. 1, at which time “we’ll start the next phase of our lives.” He would not elaborate.

The building had been called Marine Midland Center from 1972 – when it was built – until 1994. HSBC acquired majority control of Buffalo-based Marine Midland Bank in 1980 and then full control in 1987, and rebranded the local bank as HSBC in 1999.

HSBC and Marine before it have been the building’s dominant tenants since the beginning, occupying about 75 percent of the space. But its lease ends in October, and it is not renewing it, as it has downsized its regional presence after selling its upstate New York branch network and U.S. credit card business.

Neil Brazil, an HSBC spokesman, said the removal of the signs was “another element of our planned migration out of the tower” ahead of the expiration of the bank’s lease at the end of October. The bank is having the signs removed this week, instead of closer to the end of the lease, to avoid potentially getting bogged down in bad weather, Brazil said.

The HSBC logo has been at the top of the building’s four sides since 1994, when it replaced Marine Midland’s sailing-ship logo. HSBC will put the metal signs into storage until the bank decides what to do with them, Brazil said. “They’re actually very large. You don’t get a sense of it from the ground. It’s going to be quite a piece of work to get them down.”

HSBC has been steadily moving its 2,200 employees and operations out of the downtown location and into both the HSBC Atrium building next to the First Niagara Center and its sprawling former mortgage facility in Depew.

It is investing $35 million to upgrade those two facilities. HSBC officials have pointed to the investments as evidence that the bank remains committed to its Buffalo Niagara work force.

The exit of HSBC also comes at the same time as the building’s No. 2 tenant, law firm Phillips Lytle LLP, is preparing to vacate its own space to move into its new home at One Canalside, the former Donovan State Office Building.

The law firm’s lease expires in December. A couple of other tenants have also left the building, including the third largest, the Canadian Consulate, which was closed.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, the tower will be only 5 percent occupied, and Fitzmaurice confirmed that there are no new tenants lined up right now.

Local real estate, business and political leaders have warned that the emptying of the region’s tallest office building could damage Buffalo’s central business district if all of the space was made available on the office market.

Instead, a panel of outside experts convened through the Urban Land Institute earlier this year, at Seneca One’s request, recommended conversion of the building to a mixed-use facility, with a combination of residential, hotel, retail and office space.

Fitzmaurice would not disclose what the New York City-based owners are planning. “We’re working on a lot of things right now, but there’s nothing I can divulge at this point,” he said.

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