Developer Paul Iskalo had set aside the seventh floor of the Electric Tower for a tenant that could take all of the space, rather than splitting it up.
The historic tower opened in 1912. And Iskalo viewed the seventh floor as "historically significant" as the building itself. The floor was home to the executive offices of the Buffalo General Electric Co., which presided over the electrification of the region.
Much of the original historic character of the floor's offices has been preserved. Iskalo, whose firm bought the downtown tower in 2004, preferred to wait for a tenant that "recognized the truly special opportunity that the seventh floor presents."
Paul Iskalo says the 7th floor's historic character has been preserved and wasn't spilt up for more than one tenant. pic.twitter.com/c67HASo8ih
— Matthew Glynn (@MattGlynnBflo) April 18, 2018
Now that tenant has emerged. Bank on Buffalo will pour $2.25 million into renovating the space for its regional headquarters. It will mark the latest step for Bank on Buffalo, a division of Pennsylvania-based CNB Financial, and more growth is on the horizon.
Bank on Buffalo has opened three branches in the market so far, and plans to build a fourth, in Niagara Falls. The bank expects to open a temporary location for the Niagara Falls branch this summer, and is exploring locations for a fifth branch in the region.
Bank on Buffalo already has a foothold in the Electric Tower. It operates a branch on the first floor, which the bank opened in early 2017, and has offices in temporary space on the third floor. The seventh floor should be ready for use in October. About 15 to 20 employees will work there, including about a dozen who will move up from the third floor.
"It's a major commitment to the Buffalo market, and it's a further investment in the Buffalo community as to not where we are now, but also where we're headed," said Martin Griffith, Bank on Buffalo's president. The bank will use the additional space to fuel its growth in the market, as well as support its expanding network of branches, he said.
Bank on Buffalo has 31 employees across its operations, and is looking to hire more people. Griffith said the bank has originated more than $200 million worth of loans, and is generating business from its new private bank and wealth management segment at a fast clip, as well.
The bank needs to attract more deposits to fund its commercial lending growth, "which means we need to keep our foot on the pedal with the branch locations," he said.
Griffith said Bank on Buffalo wants to mirror what a sister division, ErieBank, has done in Erie, Pa. Since being formed in 2005, ErieBank has nearly $1 billion in assets, with 11 branches and a "robust" wealth management division.
"We have every bit of that ambition here in Buffalo," Griffith said. "We think that the $1 billion asset base can be achieved sooner here than it was in Erie because of the market opportunity that presents itself here."
Griffith said the bank has recruited experienced people who worked in a variety of jobs for First Niagara Bank, which was acquired by KeyBank in 2016. "The important part of this, too, these folks all worked together for a number of years. They fully trust each other."
Griffith said Bank on Buffalo, in less than 18 months of existence, is already contributing to CNB's profits. And he said Bank on Buffalo has obtained regulatory approvals for its Niagara Falls site, which will be built off Niagara Falls Boulevard. Construction is set to start in the fourth quarter, but the bank has secured a nearby, undisclosed site where it will operate a temporary branch that should open in late summer.
Joseph B. Bower Jr., president and CEO of CNB Financial, said he believes Bank on Buffalo has been received quickly by customers because the bank has hired local people and emphasized local decision-making.
"It truly has exceeded our expectations," he said.