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GEICO, Crowley Webb buy buildings that house their offices

GEICO plans to buy the building that houses its customer service center in Amherst.

The insurer is paying $23 million to acquire the 255,500-square-foot building that it has leased for more than a decade in the Crosspoint Business Park from an affiliate of Uniland Development Co.

The deal cleared one of its final hurdles on Friday when the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, which provided tax breaks for the building, gave its approval to the sale.

The tax breaks, which run through 2022, are not affected by GEICO’s purchase of the building, said David Mingoia, the agency’s interim executive director.

GEICO currently has 2,693 employees at its building, located on 22.2 acres at 300 Cross Point Parkway.

Crowley Webb owners

Three of the four owners of Buffalo advertising agency Crowley Webb have acquired The Barnes & Hengerer Building in downtown Buffalo from real estate investor and developer Tony Kissling’s Kissling Interests LLC, according to a release from Crowley Webb.

Jim Hettich, Jeff Pappalardo and James Crowley, acting through CW 268 Main LLC, paid $3.1 million to buy the six-story building at 268 Main St., according to Erie County Clerk records.

The 56,208-square-foot building already houses Crowley Webb on the fourth and fifth floors, as well as commercial real estate brokerage J.R. Militello Realty Inc. and Keenan Law Firm on the third floor.

However, the 30-year-old Crowley Webb has been growing, and needed more room to expand, Hettich said in an interview. It currently has 79 employees and is seeking to add more capabilities, particularly in communications and analytics.

The firm, which has leased space in the building since 1993, considered moving out of downtown Buffalo, but “didn’t want to, because of what was happening there,” and also couldn’t find anything “that met our needs,” he said.

“Finally, an opportunity to purchase came up and we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Hettich said. “Now we can guarantee we’ll be in the city core, near the waterfront. It’s wonderful to be able to invest in our hometown and be able to stay put and grow our agency.”

Constructed in 1889 and located near Swan Street in the Joseph Ellicott Historic Preservation District, the red brick commercial building was home to the city’s first William Hengerer Department Store.

Waterfront tower

Orchard Park businessman Gerald Buchheit’s effort to develop a 23-story glass apartment tower on an Outer Harbor peninsula faced another delay this week, when the Buffalo Preservation Board said it needed more information before determining whether he could proceed with plans to demolish the existing Freezer Queen building that now sits on the property.

Buchheit wants to tear down the 273,120-square-foot six-story refrigerated warehouse at 975 Fuhrmann Blvd. and replace it with a new 370,000-square-foot residential complex dubbed Apartments @ Queen City Landing. The proposed project would feature 197 one- and two-bedroom apartments, two restaurants, a bar, a pool, and a wellness studio, and other recreational elements atop a three-story parking ramp for 320 vehicles.

Buchheit, who also needs Planning Board and other city approvals for the $60 million project, sought the green light for the demolition Thursday afternoon from the Preservation Board. But board members asked for original plans and drawings for the current building, information on any modifications to it over the years, information about the architect, and information about the building’s eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. They asked him to return on April 28.

Buchheit will also be back before the Planning Board on Monday.