The owner of the five-story Tent City building in downtown Buffalo has put the historic Main Street building up for sale to try to cash in as downtown's real estate market heats up.
Charles Kushner, who also owns the Washington Surplus Center retail business that occupies the ground floor, is seeking $2.5 million for the 122-year-old brick building at 674 Main St., next to Alleyway Theatre in the middle of the Theater District.
That's in an area of the city that has seen significant redevelopment and renovation activity affecting many long-neglected and underused buildings. And it's central to activity in the city's core, with easy access to downtown Buffalo, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Metro Rail.
"Tent City presents a prime opportunity to be a part of the many exciting reuse projects happening in Buffalo," according to a marketing brochure from Hunt Commercial.
The 25,000-square-foot steel-and-concrete building is mostly empty, except for the 6,900-square-foot store, where shoppers can find a wide range of sportswear and outerwear, such as leather jackets, winter coats, work clothes, shoes, boots and camping gear. The upper floors, which Kushner had planned to renovate years ago, are available for conversion into apartments or office space.
The retail business will continue operating after a sale, but can either stay in the building or relocate "to a more conducive location" depending on the plans of a purchaser, said Chris Malachowski, the Hunt broker who is representing Kushner in marketing the property.
"It makes sense to sell now when things are hot downtown," he said. "All options are on the table for the business, but we think this great landmark is ready for a rebirth."
The Beaux Arts Classical-style building features a yellow-and-white stone facade, with marble ionic columns and neoclassical architecture touches throughout, including its cornice, cartouche, modillions, pilasters, dentils and caduceus.
Designed by architect Edward A. Kent and erected in 1895, the building was originally used as a factory and sales room for the A.E. Perron Co., which made carriages, sleighs and harnesses. It was acquired in 1905 for use as a showroom by Gustave H. Poppenberg's Poppenberg Co., which made pianos, bicycles and carriages or cars in a factory at Main and Carlton streets – on what is now the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Later, in the 1930s, the Wurlitzer Co. bought the building for its offices, showroom and studios, and kept it as the major retail outlet in Buffalo for the pianos, organs, radios and other musical instruments that the company made at its factory.
After that business closed in 1996, Washington Surplus bought the building a year later for only its third home since it opened. It had started at the corner of Washington and Seneca streets – now third base at Coca-Cola Field – but was forced to move in 1966 to 730 Main St., where it remained until moving to the current Main Street site.
Kushner, whose father started the company 75 years ago to sell surplus military clothing and equipment after he returned from serving in World War II, became interested in architecture and invested money in restoring the building's facade. He and partner Larry Maxick were honored for their work by then-Mayor Anthony Masiello and the Buffalo Preservation Board in June 2002.
Kushner also had planned to convert the upper floors into 12 apartments, with a glass atrium and a rooftop garden, but those plans never materialized.
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