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Developer puts four downtown buildings up for sale

Businessman Roger Trettel, who has made a successful side career out of redeveloping small downtown buildings on Main Street and adjacent streets, is now seeking to sell a portfolio of four prominent buildings as he builds a fund to take on a new project.

Trettel, through Hunt Commercial Real Estate, is seeking to sell 515-517, 521 and 523 Main and 500 Washington, located in the heart of Buffalo's downtown business district, in a stretch that has seen significant renovation and redevelopment work over the past five years.

He is asking $2.85 million for the contiguous portfolio, but plans to roll the proceeds into a "downtown opportunity fund" to "energize a stagnant part of the city," said Hunt agent Christopher Malachowski.

"My goal and strategy has always been to reactivate these previously vacant and distressed buildings to bring life back to the 500 block of Main Street – a goal which I have largely accomplished," Trettel said in an emailed statement. "We brought a dead zone back to life."

Trettel would not identify his "opportunity fund" projects, but said he plans to focus his new investments in the Ellicott Street and "Electric District" corridors. He also still owns "multiple other properties downtown," he said.

Trettel – a veteran environmental consultant whose day job is vice president of energy services and operations manager at Tetra Tech – has been engaged in real estate investing, renovation and redevelopment for over 22 years, in both Buffalo and Portland, Maine.

Locally, he's targeted much of his energy on the 500 block of Main Street, seeking to revive one of the most neglected parts of downtown. He's considered among the first to take a major risk on that section of Main, even before the Cars Sharing Main Street initiative had restored car traffic to that central artery.

"It was always his goal to revitalize these vacant, crumbling buildings and he has done that and more," Malachowski said.

Trettel is also working with Andrew Crossed's Park Grove Realty of Rochester on a $25 million project to construct a 10-story, mixed-use building on Niagara Street that includes affordable housing alongside market-rate apartments, streetfront retail space and parking. Plans call for converting the blighted, vacant two-story structure at 990 Niagara into a new residential complex, with 95 one- and two-bedroom apartments overlooking the Niagara River.

The project will include an affordable housing component.

The four properties in the sale portfolio include street retail, office and live/work apartment spaces, and "present myriad opportunities for someone wishing to be part of downtown's rebirth," according to a marketing brochure that is part of the real estate listing.

The three Main Street properties currently bring in $15,955 per month and $191,460 in annual rent, according to the brochure, but they are undervalued. If leased to their potential, the Hunt brochure indicated, the annual rent would jump to $424,200, with a net rent after expenses of $275,730. That would value them at between $3.4 million and $4.6 million.

The three-story yellow building at 515-517 Main includes two first-floor storefronts, occupied by Main Street Gallery and Phenominal Xpressions. The 12,720-square-foot building also has six second-floor studio spaces in 4,300 square feet that are half occupied. The third floor, also 4,300 square feet, is vacant.

Next door is a tall, slender four-story building with 8,800 square feet, featuring a white facade, black-framed windows and Juliet balconies. Tenants include Allpro parking and a restaurant, while the top two floors are vacant.

The third building in the row, with its white columned facade and bright purple decorative accents, has six first-floor spaces, including Jerks, two law firms, another business and two empty suites. The second floor of the 6,190-square-foot structure is vacant in front, with a lounge and office space, but has a tenant in the rear. The third floor is also occupied.

Finally, the three-story Washington Street building in back has 2,285 square feet of space. The tan brick building is unoccupied.

All four date to 1900, and were at least partly renovated in recent years by Trettel. According to the marketing brochure, the "combined project" is located in a downtown Opportunity Zone and the 500 Block Historic District, making it a candidate for state and federal historic tax credits. It already qualified for a $750,000 low-interest bridge loan from the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., and Trettel is currently applying for $50,000 in New York Main Street grant funds for additional facade work. Grants are also available from National Fuel Gas Co. and National Grid.

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