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OMAHA FIRM BUYING BARRISTER'S FORMER HQ

A Nebraska real estate investment company is snapping up another prime office building in downtown Buffalo.

Government Properties Trust, which is buying the brand new Niagara Center office building at 130 S. Elmwood Ave. for $71 million, will also acquire a 2-year-old building at 186 Exchange St. Built in 2003 by Uniland Development Corp., it briefly housed Barrister Global Services Network, which relocated out of state within months of moving into the facility.

The federal General Services Administration has signed a lease with Uniland to move the Social Security Administration's Buffalo regional headquarters to the building this summer. The purchase price for the 36,000-square-foot, two-story structure is $5.5 million.

This will mark Amherst-based Uniland's second deal with Government Properties. Uniland was the co-developer, with Buffalo's Acquest, on the Niagara Center.

Uniland spokesman Tom Widzinski said the latest deal reflects well on Buffalo.

"It's a positive sign when a national (real estate investment trust) has so much confidence in the future of Buffalo's economy," Widzinski said.

He said Uniland will continue to invest in downtown Buffalo, despite the recent sale deals. The Amherst developer also announced this month that is has dropped plans to demolish the former Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co. department store at 377 Main St. to build a new $40 million office complex, citing a lack of government aid for the complicated project.

Omaha, Neb.-based Government Properties specializes in ownership of mint condition office buildings tenanted by government agencies with long-term leases, most often federal agencies. Both of its Buffalo acquisitions fit that mold.

The just-opened Niagara Center building has signed the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration, National Labor Relations Board and the Buffalo regional office of Sen. Charles Schumer. Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration has leased the entire Exchange Street building.

All of those agencies and offices are relocating from the soon-to-close Dulski Federal Office Building.

Publicly-traded Government Properties, headed by Buffalo native Thomas D. Peschio, has drawn a bead on Buffalo in recent months. The company is said to be very interested in Erie County's nearly-complete Public Safety Building on Elm Street, as well as the 5-year-old Family Court Building.

Sources said the firm plans to meet with County Executive Joel A. Giambra in the next few weeks.

Government Properties is in an aggressive acquisition posture, with a stated goal of making $400 million in acquisitions in 2004.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com