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Buffalo’s tallest building has a new owner

One Seneca Tower officially has a new owner, and possibly a new future.

Douglas Jemal, the highly successful Washington, D.C., developer who reshaped parts of that city, completed his much-awaited purchase of Buffalo’s tallest building Thursday, more than two weeks earlier than originally projected.

Documents have not yet been filed with the Erie County Clerk’s office, so the final purchase price is not yet available. But Jemal confirmed the purchase by email and telephone, and sources previously said the price was just over $12 million – roughly the amount at which the empty 38-story office tower was valued during an earlier appraisal.

The early purchase by the Washington developer brings an end to a period of significant uncertainty and doubt about the building’s future. It also demonstrates Jemal’s determination, despite skepticism locally about another out-of-town developer, to show his commitment to the project and his wherewithal to get it done.

Jemal’s Douglas Development bought the 1.2-million-square-foot complex at the foot of Main Street from LNR Partners, the Miami Beach-based mortgage servicer that represents the bondholders on a previous loan. LNR had foreclosed on the property, taking possession in October 2015 after former owner Seneca One Realty of New York City defaulted on that $91 million mortgage.

With the building now in their possession, Jemal and his team can proceed with their ambitious plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use complex, roughly equally split between residential, hotel and office space, with a significant amount of retail on the first floor. Specifics have not yet been determined, but the cost has been pegged at as much as $200 million for what will likely be a multi-year effort.


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