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Tishman Building renovation to proceed Architecture firm has been hired to update National Fuel's former Lafayette Square home

The New York-based trust that owns Buffalo's Tishman Building has decided to plow ahead with plans to renovate the prominent building and lease it to new tenants after efforts to find a buyer fell short.

Lillian Goldman Family LLC, through its Solil Management property management division, has hired architectural firm Carmina Wood Morris P.C. of Buffalo to redesign the entrance of the former National Fuel Gas Co. headquarters at 10 Lafayette Square.

The nearly vacant, 20-story, 198,000-square-foot building was home to National Fuel until the utility moved to Williamsville in 2003. The company's customer service center on the ground floor remains the anchor tenant.

Plans call for improving the building to attract potential tenants, including providing more ancillary space, said Steven Carmina, partner at the firm that bears his name.

In particular, officials want to push the entire entrance to the building out to the front, and get rid of the recessed space underneath, as well as completely redesign the lobby.

Officials also want to replace the "very old marble" with new granite and wood paneling, Carmina said. The smoking area also will be eliminated, and the dark filmy glass will be replaced with new windows, with vertical blinds installed to give some protection from sun glare. "It'll make it more visible, so you can see inside the building," Carmina said.

The owners also want to install a new building directory and lighting, upgrade the interiors of the elevators, and put in a concierge station so someone is there to greet visitors. And they're planning to put lighting on the exterior of the building at pedestrian height.

On the second floor, plans call for creating a conference room and lunch area to be shared by the tenants, with state-of-the-art equipment for PowerPoint and other media presentations, as well as microwaves for the lunchroom.

The firm already obtained a building permit, and demolition has started. Carmina is working with R&P Oak Hill Development, construction manager for the job. The project, estimated to cost about $500,000, should be completed around Dec. 1.

Solil and Goldman officials did not return a phone call seeking comments.

The Manhattan-based Goldman trust, one of the most powerful real estate firms in New York City, has had ties to the Tishman Building since the 1960s, and long owned the land underneath the tower. It regained ownership of the building itself in fall 2008 after another New York-based group unsuccessfully tried to lease it and then sell it for as much as $3.9 million.

The trust retained CB Richard Ellis to market the building to potential buyers and conducted a sealed bid auction in January and February of this year, drawing attention from both local and out-of-town groups. It was assessed at about $2 million.

Officials were negotiating a deal in April with an unidentified party, now thought to be the disgraced Cleveland investor, Michael Wilson, who also purchased and then defaulted on two Hamburg mansions. That deal ultimately fell through, and Wilson is now under investigation by federal authorities for possible investment fraud.

Charles Clark, director of brokerage agency services for CBRE in Buffalo, said the firm is "still in discussions with a couple of parties," but the New York trust hired Carmina "with the intention of moving forward in leasing the building themselves" in the meantime.

"We have spoken with a few other people, but we were unable to get the terms to come together," he said.

Carmina said Solil had reached out to the firm while the sale efforts were under way because officials wanted to "just be at the ready" if the deal talks fell through. Now that it's happened, "they're going full throttle to bring new tenants into the building," he said.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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