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Pizza Plant ‘exceedingly close’ to lease deal at One Canalside in Buffalo

Pizza Plant is close to signing a lease for its newest location at One Canalside downtown, bringing its pizza, pods and craft beers to Buffalo’s burgeoning waterfront and filling the last space in the converted former Donovan State Office Building, officials confirmed Friday as they gathered belatedly to mark the grand opening of the redeveloped building.

Restaurant co-owner Dan Syracuse said he and his brother expect to sign a lease “any week” with “just a few little things here or there” to take care of, and Benderson Development Co. Vice President Eric Recoon confirmed that the parties are “exceedingly close” to a deal.

Meanwhile, Benderson is also moving ahead with plans for a second building between One Canalside and the HarborCenter building going up on Scott Street. Plans call for a three- or four-story building, with retail or restaurant space along the ground floor and possibly apartments or other residential space on the upper levels, said Thomas Dee, CEO of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the state agency overseeing the waterfront development at Canalside.

One possibility for the retail space is a beer garden, although nothing is final, he said. He said Benderson is “definitely negotiating with people ... It’s a significant building,” he said. “The place is going to be so dynamic.”

At One Canalside, confirmation that the popular Amherst pizzeria would take up 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the eight-story building came Friday as dozens of government, business and community leaders assembled on the plaza between One Canalside and the East Canal park to celebrate Benderson’s $30 million investment downtown.

The building is home to law firm Phillips Lytle LLP’s headquarters on the top four floors and a new Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the lower four floors.

The project entailed the “de-skinning” of the 52-year-old building – named for Gen. William Donovan but vacant since 2007 – down to its structural steel and its conversion into a LEED-certified mixed-use facility.

Phillips Lytle moved into its 85,000 square feet of space in late November 2013, and the 102-room hotel opened for business in May, but that didn’t stop anyone from marking the occasion Friday.

“One Canalside is a statement of confidence and vision,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

“Good things are worth waiting for. Sometimes great things take even longer,” Deputy Erie County Executive Richard Tobe said. “It took a lot of confidence and it’s taken a very long time, but the future generations will benefit from this.”

Politicians highlighted the pace of redevelopment and transformation in the area, including the nearby HarborCenter that is under active construction by the Buffalo Sabres, and touted the early risk that Benderson took with One Canalside as the first private-sector investment at the waterfront.

“A lot of hard work did go into getting us to where we are today and it’s wonderful to see the transformative impact that One Canalside has had,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said.

Recoon called it a “textbook example of adaptive re-use as we took arguably Buffalo’s ugliest building and transformed it.”

“My father was a total believer, and I think he would be very proud right now,” said Benderson Development CEO Randy Benderson, referring to his father and company founder Nate Benderson. “And it’s wonderful what the Sabres are doing.”

“We are elated with the occupancy level,” Recoon said.