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New office space urged for two U.S. agencies

Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants the head of the General Services Administration, the federal agency that handles government office space, to find new quarters for the Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration so the $12 million restoration of the historic Guaranty Building can stay on schedule.

Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that he has sent a letter to Lurita Doan, the GSA administrator, asking her to find an immediate solution to the office space problem.

"We can't let bureaucratic wrangling and feet-dragging jeopardize a remarkable renovation project that will be a sorely needed shot in the arm for downtown Buffalo," Schumer said in a written release as he stepped into the dispute.

Hodgson Russ, the Buffalo law firm that bought the 13-story building in 2002, filed suit in U.S. District Court last week, seeking the eviction of the IRS and DEA as Guaranty Building tenants.

The law firm said it already has extended the lease of the two agencies after the GSA failed to find new space and said both federal agencies now look like they're going to need even more time past the new July deadline.

In the meantime, Hodgson Russ said, the delay is causing problems with the building's continuing rehabilitation, which has to be done before all 350 employees, including 160 lawyers, can move in. The law firm is having to pay rent elsewhere.

"In this instance," Schumer said, "Buffalo can have its cake and eat it, too, because there is plenty of space in downtown that can accommodate tenants like the DEA and IRS."

Schumer told Doan it was time for the GSA to step up its efforts and cited the need to avoid litigation and keep the Guaranty's rehabilitation on schedule.

John Scorcia, the GSA assistant regional administrator in this area, said he was optimistic new quarters for the two agencies can be found soon.

"It's unfortunate that Hodgson Russ has taken this action," he said of the lawsuit. "The federal government has been diligent in its efforts."

The DEA rents part of the second floor and all of the third, while the IRS rents the fourth and fifth floors of the building.

The Guaranty Building, with its distinctive terra cotta exterior, was designed by Louis Sullivan and his partner, Dankmar Adler. Completed in 1896, it's a National Historic Landmark. The Guaranty and the Wainwright Building in St. Louis are the last surviving Sullivan skyscrapers.

e-mail: mbeebe@buffnews.com

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