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Tent City owner puts Main Street building back on market after failed sale attempt

The apparent collapse of a negotiated contract to buy the five-story Tent City building in downtown Buffalo has prompted the longtime owner to put the historic structure back on the market again.

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 Curtain-Up Alley in the middle of the Theatre District.

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 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 years ago to renovate, are available for conversion into apartments or office space.

The building also has a full basement, and an elevator. And there's also a rear single-story brick building behind the main structure and a 20-car parking lot with access from Pearl Street.

Kushner, who put it up for sale last April, had a pending contract on the building but couldn't come to final terms with the proposed buyer, said Hunt Commercial Real Estate broker Chris Malachowski. He would not identify the former buyer, or reveal the price.

"It was pending for many moons," the broker said. "We were not able to reach an agreement during the negotiations."

Historic Tent City building on market for $2.5 million

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 salesroom for the A.E. Perron Company, which manufactured carriages, sleighs and harnesses. It was acquired in 1905 by Gustave H. Poppenberg's Poppenberg Co., which made pianos, bicycles and carriages or cars in a factory at Main and Carlton streets – at what is now the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – but used this building as its showroom.

Later, in the 1930s, the Wurlitzer Co. of Tonawanda 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 buying 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 had also 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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