A significant chunk of downtown real estate – totaling 1.8 acres of land – is going up for auction, as the owner of Simon Electric Co. seeks to cash in on rising property values in the city's core.
Bert Simon hired CBRE-Buffalo to list his commercial real estate portfolio in the central business district. That includes seven buildings with about 80,500 square feet of space, mostly fronting on Ellicott Street but also on Huron and Oak streets.
“This portfolio is a rare find on the market in most cities with a mix of buildings and land in a central business district,” said Adam Koehn, director of business development for CBRE|Buffalo. “It also has the benefits of being in a qualified opportunity zone along with some historic preservation eligibility.”
Rather than a traditional real estate listing, Simon decided to auction his property. CBRE is calling for offers to be submitted by 4 p.m. Dec. 12. No minimum bid price has been announced for the sale, which is being handled by brokers Robert Roller and Molly Barniak.
"I've decided that I want to have some time to myself," he said. "The family has decided to just kind of take a break from things. I just felt that the time is right."
Sinon also is aware that the value of his property has increased exponentially as the revival and redevelopment of downtown Buffalo has generated explosive growth in real estate prices.
Ellicott Street already has new bars and restaurants and a new medical office building, while a new co-working facility, a new pocket park next to the library and a new 201-unit affordable apartment building with a grocery store are in the works.
And city officials are now eyeing Ellicott from Tupper to Swan streets as a new urban corridor ripe for reinvestment in streetscape, building enhancements and additional redevelopment to connect the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus with downtown.
"I've had more people come to me with offers," Simon said, citing local developers, "and I've wanted to put it on the market to get some new blood into the area and get some Canadian money down here or Florida money up here."
Simon's properties were specifically cited by local economic development officials as opportunities for infill projects.
"It is a nice opportunity, because of the size of the property downtown, to start filing in the gaps and creating more critical mass along that corridor of downtown," said David Stebbins, vice president at Buffalo Urban Development Corp., which is helping conduct the Ellicott Street "node" study. "Whoever the future potential owner or owners are, we would look forward to working with them."
Simon Electric is headquartered at 367 Ellicott – where the family-owned, second-generation company has been located for most of its 87-year history.
Simon, 80, said he's ready to take a step back from the electrical contracting company that his father, Bert Sr., started. His brother had worked for the company as well, but died previously.
The company, which now employs fewer than 10 people, has already cut back on its staff and its outside contracting work. "We're just playing it by ear as we go along," Simon said. "We'll see what develops."
But that doesn't mean the company is closing. That decision has not yet been made, he said, noting that his two daughters and sons-in-law also work in the business, and are interested in continuing.
"That's a decision they have to make," he said.
Simon said he also owns other properties and businesses that can provide him with income, or allow him to relocate the business for the future.