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Buffalo's Benderson Development Co. Inc. may be ready to flex its retail development muscles in downtown Buffalo.

The Buffalo-based retail development giant has signed a contract to purchase the six-story Jackson Building at 220 Delaware Ave. from Canada Life Assurance Co. of America, according to sources involved in the deal.

"There is a contract signed by both parties," said one insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Whether that will lead to an actual sale, I don't know. But they are serious enough to be going through the due diligence process."

Robert Nuchereno of Berlow Real Estate is brokering the transaction, according to the insider.

Neither Benderson, Canada Life, nor Berlow representatives would comment on the sale discussions. The parties also are mum on Benderson's plans for the 105,000-square-foot building.

While it's not known how much Canada Life is asking for the 75-year-old building, the company briefly sold the building to a local developer for $1.3 million in 1993. The Toronto firm later regained ownership when a planned project failed.

Mayor Masiello is among those who have been hearing rumors of Benderson's interest in the downtown property in the past few weeks. The mayor said he got confirmation by calling Nathan Benderson, the patriarch of the highly regarded development company.

"Nate basically told me they are
interested in doing some really nice retail and parking. He didn't get more specific than that," Masiello said.

The mayor said while he's anxious to learn more details about Benderson's plans, he is very encouraged the company is giving the downtown site its consideration. "This would give us a major player, a company that has a fantastic track record in retail development, down here," Masiello said. "If anybody can make retail work in downtown Buffalo, it's Nate Benderson."

The project, as rumored, also would require Benderson to purchase the adjacent, 12-story apartment building at 210 Delaware. One reported scenario would see the lower three floors of the sprawling Jackson Building converted to retail space, while the now-vacant 210 Delaware structure would be torn down to make room for a parking structure to service the revamped Jackson Building.

Benderson's interest in the two properties has been rumored for several weeks, with tenants of the Jackson Building chief among those seeking information about the possible sale.

Paul Alberti, president of SPS Temporaries Inc., leases more than 16,000 square feet of space in the Jackson Building for his employment agency and related companies.

"We've been through three or four of these grand plans to renovate the Jackson and I'm still waiting for the work to begin, so I'm not going to panic about what Benderson might do until I see the bulldozers out back," Alberti said.

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