New efforts to sell One Seneca Tower – Buffalo’s tallest building – have not borne fruit yet, but potential bidders will soon have the opportunity to buy an important piece of the property.
The four-story parking ramp on Washington Street, connected to the 38-story tower by a pedestrian bridge, will be auctioned at 2 p.m. March 3, ending the foreclosure process that has wound its way through the courts for more than two years.
The auction, to be conducted by attorney and court-appointed “referee” Peter Allen Weinmann, will be held in the auditorium of the One Seneca building. That’s the same location where last October the loan servicer, LNR Partners, retained ownership of the tower itself for $28 million. The parking ramp auction had originally been publicized in January as taking place at Erie County Hall, but a representative of the law firm representing LNR, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said that was incorrect.
The ramp is currently still owned by New York City-based Seneca One Realty, which has not contested the foreclosure. LNR is widely expected to win the bidding for the ramp, just as it did for the tower, though it ended up offering far more than officials expected after another New York City investor raised the stakes by offering up to $27 million.
LNR, which serviced the mortgage loan on the building for the Wall Street investors who bought it, initiated foreclosure proceedings on both properties in December 2013 after the tower’s two largest tenants, HSBC Bank USA and law firm Phillips Lytle LLP, moved out. Combined with the closing of the Canadian consulate and other smaller departures, the building went from 95 percent full to 95 percent empty in a matter of months, putting Seneca One Realty in default and leading to the two auctions. The properties had separate loans, and the court decided to keep the sales separate to maximize the potential values.
Last week, LNR put out an initial “call for offers” for the 853,000-square-foot office tower at the foot of Main Street, testing the real estate market locally as it sought potential buyers. The deadline, originally Feb. 22, was extended until Friday. So far, no offers have come in, but most observers expect that any serious buyers would want the ramp as well and will likely wait until after next week’s auction.
The 814-space ramp also is separate from the 460-space parking garage that is underneath the tower. That’s owned and operated by the city, under a lease that expires in 2022, at which point it would revert back to the tower’s owner.