Signs of life are emerging at One Seneca Tower, starting with a huge “Now Leasing” sign hanging on the outside of one of the buildings.
Washington developer Douglas Jemal has made clear that the tenants he’s looking for have to bring something special to the table. They must have the ability to attract Buffalo’s increasingly discerning crowd.
This kind of approach may not have worked even a few years ago, when downtown was a hard sell, except for die-hard baseball and hockey fans. Now it’s gotten increasingly crowded, with a humming Canalside and HarborCenter. On the other side of the tower, summertime activities lure people downtown, with such attractions as the M&T Plaza Event Series, Downtown Country Market and an even jazzier Queen City Social.
With all that’s going on, Jemal, owner of Douglas Development Corp., is taking the right approach to reinventing One Seneca Tower in his willingness to revise what he has called an effort that will take several years. Jemal bought the 38-story office tower complex and accompanying parking ramp on Washington Street last October for $12.6 million.
He announced a $120 million plan to bring 185 apartments and a significant amount of retail and restaurant space to the two annex buildings. Parts of the concrete plaza would be reworked with new landscaping, wind walls and other features.
But as News business reporter Jonathan Epstein wrote, plans are evolving. The number of apartments in the annex has been reduced to 100, allowing space for more retail. Jemal now wants to add a four-story mixed-use building with 42 apartments and retail space to the one-story retail building originally planned adjacent to the tower. The Buffalo Planning Board has approved the new plans.
Jemal may not be a Buffalonian, but he is certainly not planning to be a stranger after recently buying a home on Nottingham Terrace for nearly a million dollars. He is, as he said, a “very committed developer that isn’t in it for the money.” Simply put, “I fell in love with the community.”
That fast affinity for Buffalo is not uncommon. Just ask the entrepreneurs lured here by opportunities, or the professors, scientists and other workers who have located here to work at the University at Buffalo, the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the financial industry or advanced manufacturing.
People are moving here for good reasons. Jemal’s One Seneca Tower redevelopment project will add to the mix.