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Seneca Tower project would be Phillip Ruthen’s largest to date

Count Phillip Ruthen among Buffalo’s new boosters.

Ruthen, 46, is managing partner of Global Capital Partners, a Hong Kong-based real estate investment and development firm that has joined the fray of suitors for Buffalo’s One Seneca Tower. He and his team – which includes a couple of family wealth offices – have offered to pay about $50 million for both the 38-story tower and its attached parking ramp on Washington Street, and to spend over $100 million on a redevelopment.

If the offer is accepted, it would be the largest venture he has tackled, and likely to occupy the bulk of his time for several years.

Ruthen lives in Greenwich, Conn., just outside New York City, with his wife and a 3-year-old child. He also has homes in Manhattan and on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and once lived in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Manhattan.

Most of his prior real estate work also has been in the New York City and southwestern Connecticut markets, as well as in Florida and previously in the lower Hudson Valley. And his 3ø-year-old firm, though legally based in China and originally more invested in Asia, is now seeking opportunities in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

The firm has expertise in construction and development, and tends to focus on multifamily and hospitality projects, where it can bring both its money and experience to bear.

In particular, adaptive reuses of existing buildings like the 1.2-million-square-foot One Seneca are right in its wheelhouse. “People don’t realize what a great building it is,” he said.

The Hobart College graduate is familiar with upstate New York from his college days in Geneva. And he admires the Midwestern nature of Buffalo, where residents are committed to their community. “It has a Midwest quality, where we think there’s a real community spirit,” he said. “People are proud to be Buffalonians. And we’re betting that will translate into people investing in product that they haven’t seen before.”