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Jemal buys industrial incubator building in Riverside

Douglas Jemal, the Washington, D.C., real estate developer who is trying to bring One Seneca Tower back to life, has added to his holdings in Buffalo with the purchase of an old industrial building in Riverside.

Jemal's Douglas Development Corp. paid $525,000 last week to buy the River Rock Industrial Incubator complex. That's a 95,000-square-foot facility at 175 Rano St., with an adjacent paved parking lot.

The seller was Michael Huntress of Acquest Development in Amherst, which also owns and manages the nearby Buffalo Free Trade Complex on River Rock Drive.

City records show the red brick buildings, which include both two- and three-story sections, date back to 1850. They include about 67,236 square feet of industrial space and 16,518 square feet of warehouse space.

The building was previously owned by the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. until Acquest bought it in January 2017, for $550,000. Tenants have include ENrG Inc., Frantisi USA Inc., Francisco Imported Foods Inc., Amherst Media and Flow-Tech Inc., but Jemal said only three currently remain.

Jemal said he plans to restore the building into a business incubator, using a partnership with SUNY Buffalo State to participate in the state's Startup-NY program for new businesses to rent space tax-free for 10 years. He's contracting with Acquest to manage and lease the building, so he can still focus on One Seneca downtown.

"It's a beautiful old building," he said. "It has great bones."

Jemal, a developer with a long track record in the Washington area, came to Buffalo less than two years ago with his acquisition of the vacant 38-story One Seneca Tower downtown. He quickly demonstrated his seriousness to a skeptical city by unveiling plans for a major $120 million redevelopment of the two Annex buildings, the lower floors of the tower, and the plaza level with both 104 apartments and retail stores. That work is underway, with plans for completion and opening of the apartments by year-end.

Second phase of One Seneca gets go-ahead

The Riverside and nearby Black Rock neighborhoods are seeing increased attention from homebuyers, businesses and developers, as they get priced out of other areas of the city. Jemal's purchase marks the second acquisition and redevelopment project on Rano.

Just around the corner from the Crowley site, investor Jim Jerge and attorney Robert Knoer have been working on a state-supervised environmental cleanup of the old Marlette property at 25 Rano.

The site contained a vacant 312,760-square-foot industrial building, with original portions dating back to the early 1900s, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation documents. The site was historically used for a planing mill and lumber yard, a radiator manufacturer, a saloon, some residences and multiple manufacturers.

According to the DEC documents, redevelopment plans could include an indoor sports complex with "possible future development of commercial and residential use buildings." But Common Councilmember Joseph Golombek, who represents the area, said the owners are "still fishing" for final reuse plans.

"There's a lot of activity in that area," he said. "In a worst-case scenario, in a year or two, we'll have shovel ready sites. Best-case, we'll have some development there."

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