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Iskalo buys former Heritage Centers building in downtown Buffalo

Iskalo Development Corp. is tapping into some downtown heritage, snapping up the sprawling former headquarters facility for the nonprofit social services agency that used to be called Heritage Centers.

Williamsville-based Iskalo paid $3.92 million on Tuesday to complete its purchase of the one-story complex that occupies an entire city block at 101 Oak St. and 117 E. Eagle St., on the eastern edge of the central business district.

Iskalo Executive Vice President David Chiazza said the developer doesn't have any specific plans for the property, calling it "more of an opportunistic purchase."

"The property was for sale. There aren’t that many opportunities that you have to acquire an entire block of property in the central business district," he said. "We thought the building had various opportunities to be used and reused."

The 68,276-square-foot facility was owned by NYSARC Inc., on behalf of the Arc Erie County New York, a social services agency for the developmentally disabled. The Arc employs 1,100 full- and part-time workers and serves 2,800 individuals in Erie County.

The local agency put the 2.68-acre property up for sale earlier this year for $5.2 million as part of a multipronged plan to consolidate and relocate its main offices while dispersing its other services to additional sites. Much of the downtown building was already empty after the agency shut down its Allentown Industries sheltered workshop under a new federal initiative to integrate clients into the community.

Meanwhile, a second large operation, at 2643 Main St., is being reconfigured on the first floor from administrative offices into a program facility, with nonresidential daytime services and therapy. The second floor is being leased to a new social services agency.

The Arc also will bring its headquarters and administration functions together from the Oak and Main facilities into a single location after it acquired a two-story building on 25 acres at 30 Wilson Drive in Amherst this week for $4.15 million.

The 50,000-square-foot building, constructed in the early 1980s by former Amherst Systems Inc. founder and CEO Charles Dowdell, is located behind Ingram Micro near Youngs Road and Wehrle Drive. Once home to more than 400 workers at the defense contractor before it was acquired by Northrop Grumman, the building was used as a satellite campus for Medaille College from 2007 to 2014, but has been empty for about four years.

“We’re purchasing a tremendous building and grounds that will enable us to bring our administrative staff together in a new headquarters and we’ll be able to provide the people we support, and their families, with expanded services and opportunities," said Doug DiGesare, chief operating officer and interim CEO of The Arc.

The entire process - which will cut The Arc's footprint by 52,000 square feet and reduce costs by $700,000 - will still take some time to complete, so the Arc will remain at Oak for four months while it transitions its functions out.

But Iskalo has already started to market the space. Constructed in 1982, the building has about 45,975 square feet of high-bay production or assembly space and 23,839 square feet of office space, plus 151 parking spaces.

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Iskalo is willing to subdivide the space, but would ideally prefer a single large tenant to occupy all or most of it as an anchor, Chiazza said.

"We think the site is ideal for a single user that is looking for parking on-site," he said. "For someone who wants to be downtown, it’s a fairly sizable building with parking and good accessibility."

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In the meantime, he said Iskalo plans to repaint and freshen up the facade, getting rid of the orange stripe that has long marked the property, as it tries to draw renewed interest to the building. Officials will also do additional renovations based on the needs of new tenants.

"People get used to driving by a building and it gets to be street furniture," Chiazza said. "Just to get people's attention, we're going to paint it to get them looking at it again."

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