Decades ago, the seventh floor of the Electric Tower was home to Buffalo General Electric Co., which presided over the electrification of the region.
Now, after a $2.2 million renovation, the floor has come back to life, as the regional headquarters of Bank on Buffalo. The project fulfilled a goal both for Iskalo Development, which owns the building, and the bank.
Iskalo had set aside the floor for a single tenant that could renovate the entire space. The bank, a division of Pennsylvania-based CNB Financial Corp., wanted a signature spot in downtown Buffalo to bring together its team and build its brand.
On Monday, Bank on Buffalo showcased the results. Nearly all of the woodwork from the seventh floor was preserved. The restored corporate boardroom, a centerpiece of the floor, is ready to host meetings.
And the floor contains ample unused space to accommodate growth, beyond the 15 people working there now. Overall, the bank has about 40 employees, including some at its four branches.
"As much as we were excited about (the renovations) from day one, it's beyond our imagination," said Martin Griffith, Bank on Buffalo's president and CEO.
The Electric Tower was built in 1912, but the expanded seventh floor was added in 1926. A portion of what used to be an exterior tower wall is now visible from inside the seventh floor. In more recent history, the floor was home to Niagara Mohawk offices.
Iskalo Development bought the Electric Tower in 2004 and viewed the seventh floor as "very special," said Paul Iskalo, head of Iskalo Development. "Most of the historic character on this floor, more than any other floor, had been retained in the building."
A lot of the walls on the floor contained featured woodwork that Iskalo Development sought to retain. Probably 80 to 90 percent of the original woodwork was reused; in some cases, wood was removed, restored and installed in a new location on the floor, Iskalo said.
Bank on Buffalo announced the renovation plan in April 2018. Iskalo praised the bank for its patience, "for understanding that in a renovation such as this, you don't sacrifice quality for schedule, and giving us the time that was necessary to complete this historically sensitive renovation of this floor."
Iskalo called the result "the quintessential modern-day office environment in historic packaging."
Griffith said the new regional headquarters suits the bank's growth plans. The bank has surpassed $300 million in total deposits and is preparing to open a fifth branch, in Amherst.
"We're starting to get some traction on the brand of Bank on Buffalo," Griffith said.
"Certainly when you have a Buffalo name and you're connected to that in your name, it's important to really appreciate the history of Buffalo," he said. "There's no better spot, probably, in Buffalo than the Electric Tower and specifically the seventh of the floor of the Electric Tower, with the former Niagara Mohawk headquarters regionally."