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TRAVEL TEAM MOVING OFFICES FROM MANSION TO FORMER FACTORY

The Travel Team, one of the Buffalo area's largest travel agencies, is making a move from a former mansion to a former factory.

Travel Team President Jean McDonnell Covelli confirmed she'll relocate the fast-expanding company from the former Chapin family mansion at 1207 Delaware Ave. to the Tri-Main Center at 2495 Main St.

While she admitted the two buildings are worlds apart in terms of office ambience, she said it's a change she and her staff are looking forward to.

"What we needed first and foremost was a building that is centrally located, is big enough to get our entire operation on one floor and has parking," Ms. Covelli said.

"Not only do we get all of those critical elements in going to Tri-Main, we also get to work in a funky, Soho-like environment. I can't wait to get in there."

Travel Team, which got its start as Rich Products Corp.'s in-house travel office, and has blossomed into a free-standing, full-service corporate and leisure travel service firm, has leased 13,000-square-feet of space on Tri-Main's third floor.

The company currently employs 60 staffers at its Buffalo headquarters, but that roster will grow by another 50 in the next few months as a result of it's recently-announced partnership with Destinations.com. It is anticipated that this new relationship with the Seattle-based Internet and phone travel company could create another 100 jobs in the next couple years.

The company has an option on additional space as its needs change, according to Ms. Covelli.

To help create an office decor that is workable for a travel agency, while taking advantage of the architecture of the building -- originally an automobile assembly plant
-- she's enlisted the help of respected commercial designer Paul LaMorticella. The Buffalo designer's resume includes Harry's Harbour Place Grille on Niagara Street, Oliver's and The Park Lane Tavern and Oyster Bar.

"It's pretty raw in here right now, but the space is fantastic. We want to make the most out of the giant industrial windows and the columns. It's definitely going to be an eclectic look," she said.

Built in 1913 as a Ford Motor Co. assembly plant, turning out Model A and Model T cars, the Tri-Main Center later was used to produce diesel engines for the U.S. Navy. But the building is probably best known as Trico Products Corp.'s windshield wiper manufacturing plant, an operation that closed its doors in 1987.

The Toronto-based Tri-Main Group, led by Elgin Wolf, acquired the building in 1988. After tinkering with an unsuccessful weekend market concept, the investors pumped more than $5 million into a facilities upgrade to attract tenants.

The spiffed-up structure has come into its own in the past few years as a mixed-use facility with a core of stable tenants.

That tenant list includes: Hallwalls art gallery, Design For Industry, the Buffalo Innercity Ballet, Great Arrow Graphics, Just Buffalo Literary Center, the reborn Kittinger Furniture Co., United Cerebral Palsy Association, Accadia Foods, and Inn-Room Plus Inc.

The former Chapin Mansion, which Travel Team will vacate this spring, remains on the market with a price tag of $550,000.

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