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Project on Freezer Queen site reported as trying to lure HSBC, Phillips Lytle

Buffalo's undeveloped outer harbor could become the home of a $300 million office, retail and hotel project if the owners succeed in landing a major corporate tenant.

Queen City Landing declined to coment on who those tenants might be, but sources familiar with the project said they include HSBC Bank and the law firm Phillips Lytle.

"I'm talking to three significant tenants that would create a unique community down there," said Gerald A. Buchheit of Queen City Landing. "It would be a modern, upbeat project that would put Buffalo on the map."

The development is targeted for the former Freezer Queen manufacturing plant, a 20-acre site on Fuhrmann Boulevard near Ohio Street.

If Queen City Landing moves forward, it would be the first large-scale commercial development on the outer harbor, a lakefront area many consider one of Buffalo's greatest development opportunities.

"I was asked to submit a proposal to three corporate tenants," Buchheit said when asked about plans for the site. "We're also talking to a number of retail tenants."

The development, if built, would consist of nearly 1 million square feet of office and retail space, a 135-room upscale hotel and underground parking. Buchheit said construction could begin late next year if at least one major corporate tenant agrees to locate there.

Phillips Lytle, one of Buffalo's oldest law firms, has indicated it will decide by the end of this summer if it will stay downtown in HSBC Center or move to a new home.

"It is one of the sites under consideration," David McNamara, the firm's managing partner, said Monday of Queen City Landing.

Phillips Lytle also is considering offers from Ciminelli Development Co. and Uniland Development Co.

Sources say the other wild card is HSBC Bank.

HSBC executives could not be reached Monday to comment on Queen City Landing, but the global banking giant is known to be weighing a move to a new location.

The bank is currently the primary tenant at HSBC Center, owned by Seneca One Realty. HSBC houses 2,200 employees on 21 of the tower's 38 floors. Another 4,000 or so bank employees work at other locations throughout the region.

"The company is currently looking at a range of options, one of which is to maintain the status quo," HSBC spokesman Neil Brazil told The Buffalo News last month.

To keep the bank in HSBC Center, the city's tallest building, the owners are proposing a 10-story addition on the adjacent plaza.

Like Phillips Lytle, the bank is considering other offers.

Buchheit would not comment on HSBC's possible interest in Queen City Landing when contacted by The News, but he did confirm the changing nature of his company's plans for the former frozen food manufacturing plant.

Queen City Landing bought the vacant Freezer Queen building in 2007 at a foreclosure auction with a bid of $3 million.

Initially, the owners planned luxury condos at the site, but Buchheit said that idea was shelved because of a surplus of competing developments.

"We slowed down the residential aspects of the project because of the marketplace," said Buchheit, the owner of Quaker Crossing shopping plaza in Orchard Park and former owner of the Statler Towers on Niagara Square.

As part its new development strategy, Queen City Landing is working with architect Marc Salette of Los Angeles.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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