After 30 years in Amherst, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is moving its corporate headquarters downtown, marking a significant endorsement of the city’s economic resurgence and demonstrating the prominent role that urban development projects now represent in the company’s portfolio.
The company will relocate its offices and employees from the Centerpointe Corporate Park off Sheridan Drive into the Fountain Plaza complex of buildings on Main Street. The move is expected to take place sometime in 2018.
“We’re very bullish on Buffalo,” said Paul Ciminelli, the company’s president and CEO.
The developer’s announcement Wednesday that it would move its headquarters, long rumored and expected in the business community, follows a significant investment by Paul Ciminelli in the Fountain Plaza complex.
The company will occupy 25,000 square feet of Fountain Plaza, taking up the entire fifth floor and half of the fourth floor of the North Tower of 40 Fountain Plaza, formerly the KeyBank Center. That’s located at Main and Chippewa streets, and was dominated by KeyBank until its acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group.
Ciminelli Real Estate employs more than 114 through its main office, but many are field representatives or mobile technicians, so about 75 employees will be in the new space. The firm is currently crammed in 14,500 square feet at 350 Essjay Road, so the move represents a much-needed physical expansion, company officials said.
Erwin Zafir of New York City, who has owned one of the buildings since 2000 and the other since 2007, remains the majority owner and “managing member,” but Ciminelli is now a partner in the development. Ciminelli would not say how much he invested or what percentage he owns, but said the investment resulted from an invitation by Zafir, managing member of Key Success LLC.
“We’ve had a long history with the buildings,” Paul Ciminelli said.
The Fountain Plaza buildings were constructed for a Toronto-based development group by the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Co., predecessor to LPCiminelli, in the early 1990s. Ciminelli Real Estate has been handling the management and leasing of the buildings for almost 20 years.
“We have done business together since the day Key Success bought the buildings, and Paul’s company has done an incredible job managing and leasing the property,” Zafir said. “Having him as an investor and his company as tenants is just another extension of our nearly 20-year relationship.”
Still, the decision to relocate was not easy. Originally founded in a trailer located at 135 Manhattan Ave. in Buffalo, Ciminelli Real Estate has been based in Amherst for over 30 years, first at 455 Commerce Drive in the Audubon Industrial Park and then mostly at Centerpointe.
That’s where Frank Ciminelli bought a vast swath of land in the mid-1980s and then developed it into a major suburban corporate park.
“It was kind of his legacy. He and I and the company developed it, and it was very successful. We enjoyed being in the Village of Williamsville,” Paul Ciminelli said. “It was not an easy decision.”
Ciminelli Real Estate, which is run by Paul Ciminelli and focuses on real estate and development, is separate from LPCiminelli, the construction management firm whose founder, Louis Ciminelli, is charged in a federal corruption case related to the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development project. Paul and Louis Ciminelli are sons of the late Frank Ciminelli Sr.
Historically, Ciminelli Real Estate has been more active in the suburbs with various business parks and other projects. But that’s changed more recently, and much of the company’s work is now in Buffalo.
That includes the Bethune Lofts on Main Street; Conventus and a proposed second building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; the Sinclair apartments on Washington Street; the Mentholatum apartment building on Niagara Street; and pending redevelopments at 201 Ellicott St. and the soon-to-be-abandoned Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo campus on Bryant Street.
“We have a lot going on in the city,” Ciminelli said.
Ciminelli’s planned move is a symbolic loss for the Town of Amherst, said Colleen C. DiPirro, president and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, which has an office in Centerpointe.
“It’s sad. I mean, Ciminelli and Amherst, this is where they grew their business base,” said DiPirro, who recalled Frank Ciminelli Sr. as being “devoted to the Town of Amherst.”
But DiPirro said she doesn’t see Amherst locked in a competition with Buffalo.
“Certainly when we lose jobs and we lose a corporate citizen like Ciminelli in our town, it hurts, but we also are a player that recognizes the value of working together as a region,” DiPirro said.
Ciminelli spokeswoman Anne Duggan noted that “Centerpointe continues to have a strong occupancy,” so the firm’s first-floor and garden-level space in Amherst will be marketed for lease to other tenants. It will retain a satellite property management office at Essjay to handle the needs of its Northtown clients and tenants, including at Centerpointe.
Ciminelli Real Estate employees currently have free parking in a sprawling lot, but will have to commute downtown where parking is at a premium. Duggan said the company is working on a parking solution for its employees and will have it finalized prior to the move.
The firm is planning renovations for the Fountain Plaza building, including updates to the lobby.
The company also has to plan out its new space. “We are currently working through those plans with our partner,” Duggan said.
News Staff Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report.