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Thinking big: Nick Sinatra sells multiple properties to focus on larger projects

Nick Sinatra, one of the region's newest and fastest-growing developers, is slimming down around the edges of his portfolio as he seeks to refocus his energy on larger projects.

The owner of Sinatra & Co. Real Estate has sold off about 10 properties in and around Buffalo in the past two months, including three in Tonawanda, Amherst and Elma. That's a significant number of deals in a short time span, though it's still less than one-tenth of his holdings in Erie County alone.

The sales, all to different buyers, have netted him $7.6 million in proceeds that he can reinvest other acquisitions or developments, or for other purposes.

Amy Nagy, Sinatra's director of development, said there's no deliberate strategy behind the sales other than "taking a look at the types and sizes of properties that make sense for us to hold as we move forward." She noted that "we have increasingly looked to larger projects or properties both in and outside the area."

Since entering the market a decade ago – with significant backing from the Pritzker family and later a Wall Street hedge fund – Sinatra has gobbled up a host of properties across the region, amassing well over 130 individual buildings with a mix of residential, retail and now even commercial space.

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He started with smaller apartment buildings in familiar neighborhoods of Kenmore, Tonawanda and North Buffalo before expanding to the Elmwood Village, Delaware District, Main Street and eventually downtown Buffalo. That's where he redeveloped an old warehouse near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus into the Phoenix Brewery Apartments and renovated the Market Arcade Building, now his firm's headquarters.

Additionally, he's been working with David Pawlik of CSS Construction on several Jefferson Avenue projects – including a two-building residential complex with People Inc., an office building and a bank branch – becoming one of the first major developers to venture well east of Main Street. And he's been actively engaged in other markets outside of Western New York, particularly in Southern California and the Chicago area.

Some observers have wondered just how much he can do at such a fast pace, and questioned if his out-of-town backers will continue to inject cash into his ventures – especially after the death of Michael Vlock, one of his patrons, who was married to one of the Pritzker heirs. But Sinatra shows no signs of slowing down – including his latest $15 million plan for the 72-unit Pierce Arrow Apartments.

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More recently, in fact, he has begun tackling even bigger projects. Most significantly, Sinatra partnered with William Paladino of Ellicott Development Co. on the planned reuse of the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo campus in the Elmwood Village. The two developers plan to convert the sprawling site – complete with the old hospital buildings – into a new community dubbed Elmwood Crossing, in a multiyear project that is expected to cost well over $150 million.

Sinatra also was awarded the $21 million contract for two new buildings at Canalside, dubbed Heritage Point. And earlier this spring, he won the initial bidding to acquire the Boulevard Mall in Amherst out of foreclosure, although he eventually sold his rights and interests to Washington developer Douglas Jemal. Still, his participation showed that he's now aiming much higher than when he started.

Two new buildings to bring residential space, retail to Canalside

Last year, he earned unwanted attention when he was criticized by the Public Accountability Initiative and politicians for not keeping up with his real estate taxes on multiple properties in Buffalo and some suburbs. A report by the activist group, confirmed by The Buffalo News, found he owed $1.2 million in back city and county taxes.

Nick Sinatra owes over $800,000 in back taxes, calls it business strategy

At the time, the developer said his failure to pay taxes was an intentional "business decision," because he was contesting the assessments and tax levies on those properties. He also cited business disputes and protests against a municipal government. Facing scrutiny, he promptly paid up to clear the debts.

However, only three of the 10 properties he recently sold were among those with tax liabilities at that time.

The sales include:

  • The Delaware Arms Apartments at 2431 and 2435 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, to Greenlane Court LLC and Fox View LLC, for $2.625 million.
  • The Sheridan Retail Center at 2319 Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, for $1.638 million, to William Caputi's CCB Properties.
  • A Sherwin-Williams paint store and a pet daycare at 2045 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, to David Witzling of Long Beach, Calif., for $880,000.
  • 35 Norwood Ave. in Buffalo, to James, Licia, Shelby and Calvin Warren of Clarence, for $522,000.
  • 135 Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo, to E2I Buy LLC of Nashville, Tenn., for $460,000.
  • An Enterprise Rent-A-Car office at 3461 Transit Road in Elma, to Jack Marsherall's 3461 Transit Road LLC in Williamsville, for $375,000.
  • 25 Inwood Place in Buffalo, to LNS Property Management of Westport, Conn., for $330,000.
  • 2389 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, to Yonnas Y. Ghirmatzion's Reemna Enterprises of Lakeview, for $280,000.
  • 1022 Hertel Ave. in Buffalo, to Tremont Property Holdings of Grand Island, for $252,500.
  • 2140 Kenmore Ave. in Buffalo, to Xianliang Wang of Tonawanda, for $213,180.

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