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Jemal's hands-on approach wins OK for new changes to Seneca One project

Washington developer Douglas Jemal got the go-ahead from city planners for his latest set of changes to his Seneca One project, allowing him to enclose two sets of open stairs below the plaza, change some facade materials and introduce murals along walls where he can't put in storefronts and glass.

Jemal's Douglas Development Corp. plans to cover the rear staircases that lead from Exchange Street at Main Street up to the plaza level, linking up to a new covered pedestrian bridge that will connect the two sides of the plaza above the Metro Rail train tracks on Main. New glass storefront doors will lead outside at street level.

That will protect pedestrians from the harsh weather, said attorney Adam Walters of Phillips Lytle, who recalled working in the former One HSBC Center building when the law firm was based there – and seeing more than half of the stairs closed off in the winter so maintenance crews only had to lay salt down on part of them. "It never made sense to have those outside. They're very icy and somewhat hazardous," he said.

Black brick and glass windows are being installed on the western side of the lower complex along Pearl Street, breaking up the imposing appearance of the facility. Jemal intends to switch out some of the brick facade he had planned for the other side of the complex with an industrial-style dark metal panel to vary the appearance at street level. New murals also will be incorporated in certain areas at Washington and Exchange streets.

"We don’t want it to be the same treatment all the way around," Walters said. "Otherwise, it’ll continue to be the monolith that it was."

Jemal also received administrative approval for a proposed eight-foot-high screen wall surrounding the front half of the plaza level, at Seneca Street, with a trellis system inside to block the wind and create a more welcoming environment.

"Douglas Jemal has a very hands-on approach to real estate development. He's not a developer who gets approval, lets his contractors go and shows up for the ribbon-cutting," Walters said. "He's on-site almost every day. He's constantly walking the property, looking for ways for the plan to be improved. He has a real passion, both for this building and for Buffalo."

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