The selection committee for this year's Greater Buffalo Building Owners and Managers Association's building of the year competition went back in history for this year's winner.
Back, in fact, to near the turn of the century, when the Queen City lived up to its nickname, the Pan American Exposition was a very recent memory, and Buffalo architectural firm Green and Wicks' saw its design built for one of the first residence Young Men's Christian Association facilities in the country.
Ninety-five years later, the structure, now known as Olympic Towers, has been named Greater Buffalo BOMA's Building of the Year. It now will move to regional competition in BOMA International's Middle Atlantic Region, including the New England states, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, made the presentation to Acquest Holdings Inc., Olympic Towers' manager and general partner in the ownership partnership, at Greater Buffalo BOMA's general membership meeting Wednesday.
The selection of Olympic Towers marks the second time in the last three years the BOMA selection committee has picked a historic facility as its building of the year. In 1995, the former Butler Mansion, now home to LucasVarity, won both the local and regional competition.
BOMA thinks it has another winner in Olympic Towers. "We had about eight buildings in a number of categories, but we were very impressed with Olympic Towers, particularly the build-out for tenants," said David Mumm, chairman of BOMA's selection committee.
Winning the Building of the Year designation shows that Acquest's efforts are paying off, said Daniel Egan, the firm's chief leasing agent.
"It's exciting when you're named the best building in Western New York," he said. "With economic times the way they are, it can be tough maintaining the quality of the building and retaining good quality tenants."
Acquest apparently is doing something right. Since it purchased the building's mortgage in 1995 and then became general partner in the partnership that owns the building, Acquest has seen occupancy in the building jump.
Within the last year alone, occupancy has risen to 91 percent from 72 percent -- all accomplished in what is considered a very soft office space market. The 145,000-square-foot complex includes the original 10-story YMCA and an adjacent four-story low-rise building.
"We've done a lot of common area improvements, spent a lot of time in building-out space for tenants, and we're in the process of putting in a $150,000 energy management system," Egan said.
The original 10-story YMCA was built in 1902. In 1985, construction began on a $19.5 million project that included complete restoration of the original towers and construction of a new four-story office tower and a connecting four-story enclosed atrium.
Olympic Towers was named in 1987 to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, 16 tenants call 300 Pearl St. home. The largest, at 20,175 square feet, is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The 13th building of the year winner joins such distinguished company as the Cyclorama, Key Center at Fountain Plaza, the Liberty Building and the Centerpointe Office Park.