The Jackson Building, at 220 Delaware Ave. in the heart of downtown, is now part of the Benderson Development portfolio.
The Buffalo-based company, which specializes in retail development, particularly power centers and community strip plazas, has purchased the six-story building for $387,500 from Canada Life Assurance Co. of America.
The sale was brokered by Robert Nuchereno of Buffalo's Berlow Real Estate.
Benderson general counsel David Baldauf confirmed the purchase Wednesday, adding that it is premature to discuss what the new owner will do with the 105,000-square-foot building.
"You can expect us to be in a holding pattern for a while as we wait and see what develops," Baldauf said, revealing little about Benderson's timetable or agenda for the building, which is said to have a current vacancy rate exceeding 50 percent.
The business community has been greatly interested in Benderson's plans for the 75-year-old structure, which sits at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street, just two blocks from Niagara Square.
The rumor mill has spawned scenarios ranging from demolition and construction of a downtown retail complex featuring national chains, to plans for reconstructing the existing building into three lower floors of retail and three upper floors of state-of-the-art office space.
There's also been speculation Benderson is positioning itself to lure government agencies with a build-to-order office complex.
"We're aware of the rumors, but its all talk for now," Baldauf said. "We really don't know what we'll do."
He noted that one of Benderson's biggest strengths is its ability to react to changing market conditions and to be where there are development opportunities.
"The purchase in the core of downtown is a sign of cautious optimism about what's to come in that area," Baldauf said.
Part of Benderson's uncertainty reportedly is tied to its efforts to also purchase the vacant 12-story apartment building next door at 210 Delaware Ave. Baldauf confirmed Benderson's interest, but hinted at complications in the acquisition process.
"There is interest, yes, but there are also things beyond our control," he said.
Real estate sources close to the situation indicated Benderson might resort to legal action to remove the undisclosed roadblock to purchase of 210 Delaware Ave.
The hurdle is rumored to involve an out-of-town bidder who claims to have outbid Benderson.
If the local developer is successful in acquiring the apartment structure, the company would control an entire downtown block bordered by Delaware Avenue, Elmwood Avenue, Chippewa Street and Cary Street.
Mike Morin, who with his wife, Sally Penders, owns and operates Spot
Coffee directly across Delaware Avenue from the Jackson Building, said he's pleased with Benderson's investment in downtown. "They have the experience and means to have a positive impact with retail, entertainment, hospitality or office-base use," he said.
"I'd like to see them do something that would fit with the physical character of the neighborhood. Hopefully, they'll take a look at restoration as they make their plans," he added.
The Jackson Building is currently home a collection of businesses, including SPS Temporaries Inc., which is the largest tenant, leasing about 16,000 square feet of space for the employment agency and related companies. The building also houses the King Snake Lounge, a liquor store, the Central Ticket Outlet office and a variety of small office tenants.
Until recently, it also had been home to RJD Security, which left space on the Elmwood Avenue side for new quarters in the Niagara Mohawk building.