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Sidway Building put on market as condo conversion prospect Units would sell for $143,000 to $152,000

Barely two years after its rebirth as an apartment complex, the turn-of-the-century Sidway Building in downtown Buffalo is up for sale.

Amherst developer Michael Joseph and his Clover Management have listed the property, located at 775 Main St., with Michigan-based real estate firm Hendricks & Partners, which has posted the property on LoopNet, a national, commercial real estate Web site. The building, located at the corner of Main and Goodell streets, is being pitched as future condominiums with an asking price of $7.4 million.

Joseph, who also co-owns the Ansonia Centre apartment complex at 712 Main St., and has been exploring residential development, possibly condos, on the former Schmidt building site at 736 Main St., said it is "more of an exploration than a serious sales push."

He said a friend at Hendricks & Partners suggested the Sidway could command a high price if marketed nationally as a condo conversion prospect.

"My feeling was, sure, if that could happen, great. I'm interested in seeing what's out there," Joseph said.

The owner said he's signed a 60-day deal with the broker to shop the Sidway to potential investors which expires at the end of March.

"I'm not in the condo conversion business and there's really nobody locally who is, so we had to reach out to the out-of-towners," Joseph said. "Who knows, maybe I'll decide to convert it myself if nothing happens. The worst case scenario is that it stays as it is, a really wonderful apartment building."

In the first 30 days of the listing, the Sidway has drawn some inquiries but no serious lookers. According to Joseph, Hendricks & Partners is one of the largest apartment brokers in the U.S. The firm served as the broker for some 2,000 units purchased in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and South Bend, Ind.

Joseph acquired the 99-year-old office building, known for its striking terra cotta facade, in 2001 for $1.3 million, spending another $5.6 million to completely gut the interior to create 67 apartments. The building, which remains downtown's single largest residential conversion effort, has proved to be an in-demand address, with 90 percent of the units leased within a few months of their introduction.

Work is currently under way to build out 4,800-square-feet of space on the ground floor as a bar, the Blue Martini.

In a condo conversion formula posted on LoopNet, Hendricks & Partners pegs the value of turning the apartment building into owner-occupied units at between $9.6 million and $10.2 million. The broker suggests the Sidway units would sell for an average price of $143,000 to $152,000. Sidway apartment dwellers currently pay between $725 and $1,900 per month for their one- to three-bedroom units. The Sidway is among a fast-growing list of converted office and industrial buildings finding new life as part of downtown Buffalo's residential renaissance. There are currently more than 500 downtown dwellings, more than double the number that existed five years ago, with another 70 under development.

But while rental units are booming, condominiums remain a rare breed. In the heart of downtown, the 41-unit City Centre complex, at 600 Main St. stands alone in offering both shelter and equity. Condos in City Centre are snatched up quickly when they do hit the market, often selling within days of being listed.

A 2005 housing study conducted by Volk/Zimmerman Associates of New Jersey, calculated downtown Buffalo could absorb 1,900 new residential units by 2010. That study suggested that 25 percent of the newly-developed housing be 'for sale' units, including condos and stand-alone homes.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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