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Dulski Federal Office Bldg. going up for sale GSA Web site gives sneak peek at property

Wanna buy a 17-story government office tower in downtown Buffalo? The nearly empty Thaddeus J. Dulski Federal Office Building in downtown Buffalo will soon be on the market.

The federal Office of General Service Administration's Building Disposal Division is preparing to sell off the 470,000-square-foot building located at 111 W. Huron St., between Delaware and Elmwood avenues, in the heart of downtown.

"We plan to start actively marketing the building in about a month," said GSA regional administrator Eileen Long-Chelales.

The government has retained Chicago-based real estate services firm, Jones Lang Lasalle, to assist in the sale effort.

The GSA's Web site is already giving would-be buyers a sneak peak of the property. The agency's "Properties for Sale" section now features a photo of the Buffalo building with general details of its physical details.

No price tag has been revealed, but the general consensus among local commercial real estate practitioners is that it will likely be offered in the $10 million range.

In addition to its 15-floors of office space, the building has underground parking for 180 vehicles and is situated on 1.7 acres of prime downtown land.

Another unique feature is an underground firing range.

Designed by Buffalo architects Pfohl, Roberts and Biggie and completed in 1971, the building was once populated by some 50 federal agencies and offices, with the Internal Revenue Service, Office of Veterans Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Social Security Administration occupying most of the tower. More than 1,200 workers called Dulski their daytime home.

By the 1990s, the IRS had moved many of its workers to a suburban site and the FBI moved into its own new quarters in downtown Buffalo. Meanwhile, the federal government learned that remodeling Dulski to accommodate its changing office needs also meant taking on expensive asbestos remediation efforts.

While the government has maintained that Dulski is not a "sick building," the operational costs associated with temporarily relocating agencies while undertaking the asbestos removal and renovation projects put the price tag for a complete modernization effort out of reach.

In 2003, the General Services Administration confirmed it planned to find new homes for all Dulski tenants and find a new owner for the building. The government's property disposal efforts will be kicking into high gear in the next few months as the final two agencies, the Small Business Administration and the Military Entrance Processing Station depart, allowing the building to be officially decommissioned.

George Hamberger, of Hunt Commercial Real Estate, said he has begun driving clients over to Dulski to give them a preview of what's to come.

"I've had some really positive reaction from those I've taken over there," Hamberger said. "The location couldn't be better and it has great potential for offices and residential."

He said the asbestos abatement won't be viewed as an unsurmountable problem.

"I don't think people will be afraid of it. Anybody who would contemplate taking this on has likely dealt with asbestos before," he said.

Paul Ciminelli, president of Ciminelli Development, also predicted the building will create a stir when it hits the market.

"It's location will be the draw," said Ciminelli, whose company bought the former Federal Reserve Bank building, located directly across Huron Street and is reselling it to New Era Cap Co. for its world headquarters.

"I'd say the building itself is physically obsolete. It would need to be completely redone or torn down," Ciminelli said. "But at the right price, we'd take a look at it."

There is predecent for demolition and fresh construction directly north of Dulski at 210 Delaware Ave. where Benderson Development imploded the former Ford Hotel in 1999 to make room for a new Hampton Inn.

That project, however, was much smaller in scope, with a six-tower building coming down to make way for a $4.5 million hotel.

Buffalo's development chief Richard Tobe said he had a conference call with GSA representatives from the Boston-based property disposal office earlier this month and let them know the city does not want the soon-to-be-empty building to languish.

"Our desire is to get it marketed and reused quickly. We don't want it sitting out there with no clear plan," Tobe said.

On Monday, Tobe received a package of information from GSA regarding its plans to market the building.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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