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More changes coming to One Seneca Tower plaza

Less than a month after getting city approval for the last set of changes to his One Seneca Tower project, developer Douglas Jemal is coming back for yet another addition and facade improvement – this time to the corner of Exchange and Washington streets.

Jemal's Douglas Development Corp. is proposing a one-story addition on the southeastern corner of the tower's plaza, adding 20,144 square feet of commercial office space that will tie into the first-floor basement level and South Annex Building higher up on the plaza, according to documents submitted to the Buffalo Planning Board.

The $1 million addition, which will surround the Annex on three sides, will enclose the walkway that connects the tower complex to the footbridge across Washington Street to the parking ramp at 117 Washington. That will allow someone who is walking to access the tower from the ramp "without significant exposure to the elements," according to a letter to the Planning Board from Jon Pierowicz, an attorney who represents Jemal.

Designed by Trautman Associates, the latest phase of the project calls for continuing the new dark gray brick and glass facade along the southern edge of the site and wrapping it around the corner onto Washington. That will replace the "currently foreboding concrete slab" with the more "stylish" new look that the developer is already introducing on the Pearl Street side on the western edge of the plaza and more recently on Upper Terrace, Pierowicz wrote.

The addition will extend down to the sidewalks of Exchange and Washington to soften the building's appearance to pedestrians, with openings that will provide daylight and offer access to tenant spaces that will promote more activity. The current overhead doors and mechanical louvers will be replaced with new finishes that will match the gray brick facade.

"The project will result in a significant improvement to the overall site by activating the currently pedestrian unfriendly stretch of blank walls along Exchange Street and Washington Street," Pierowicz wrote. "The presence of additional commercial tenants in this space will serve as a catalyst in bringing life to the formerly dormant site, linking the burgeoning Canalside with the shops and businesses on Main Street."

Because the work will reach down to the Exchange Street sidewalk, five honey-locust trees on the southeastern corner will be removed. Replacements will be planted in a "suitable public park" in coordination with the city since there's no alternative place on the property to put them.

"The project will serve to make the eastern side of the site more pedestrian friendly," Pierowicz wrote.

This is the fourth phase of Jemal's $120 million remake of the lower levels of the 1.2-million-square-foot complex. Jemal's aim is to redevelop Buffalo's tallest building into a new "live-work-play" facility with a mixture of residential, retail, office, restaurant and other uses. The goal is to welcome more people to the lower levels of the complex, generating a bustle of activity to sustain the development, before Jemal moves on to work on the tower itself, which is currently vacant.

[Gallery: One Seneca Tower renovation continues with a Ford Model A]

A total of five phases are anticipated, with full completion by February 2020, according to the Planning Board application.

Previous phases included redevelopment of the two Annex buildings into 115 apartments and retail space, followed by construction of two new black-brick retail buildings on the plaza. Jemal also added a one-story addition on the western half of the plaza, creating another 110,000 square feet of office space in the basement levels that is aimed at luring M&T Bank Corp.'s technology operations. He received approval last month for a new "clubhouse" on the Seneca Street side of the plaza, with a bar and courtyard.

Those parts of the project are slated to be completed and open by the fall. Plans call for crews to start work on the latest component by July 1, complete demolition by July 15, erect steel by Aug. 15, and finish the "envelope" of the new space by Oct. 15, so that it can be turned over to a new tenant by Oct. 30.

The Planning Board will consider Jemal's latest request at 4 p.m. on June 17. Also on the agenda are:

  • Ellicott Development Co.'s proposal for a new nine-story building at 1091 Main St., with a parking ramp and potential hotel next to a new medical office building and the renovated Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
  • Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s request for a "minor subdivision" for its West End project at Waterfront Village, located at 240-260 Lakefront Blvd.
  • Hormoz Mansouri's planned five-story apartment and retail building at 47 East Amherst St.
  • An environmental review for the Elmwood Crossing project by Ellicott and Sinatra & Company Real Estate.
  • A zoning map amendment for 441 Hinman, to allow Charles Rebon to continue operating his Double R Auto car-repair shop.
  • A special-use permit for a tobacco, hookah and vaping business at 2131 Seneca St.
  • A special-use permit to operate OSB Ciderworks to sell hard cider with a tasting room at 405 Rhode Island Ave., with a capacity of 40 and four to six tables on an outside patio during the summer.

Douglas Jemal has M&T Bank in mind for One Seneca Tower expansion plan

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