Weeks after buying a Delaware Avenue office building, the Wynn brothers of Canada snapped up another commercial building just north of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – this time with plans for a grand glass-walled office tower that would eventually take its place.
Gold Wynn Residential USA – the real estate company owned by Jeffrey, Leslie and Paul Wynn – bought the former medical office building at 11 Summer St. from Main-Summer Corp., owned by John J. Cordes.
The purchase price was $1.3 million, according to documents filed with the Erie County Clerk's office.
Built in 1900 for manufacturing and later converted to offices, the four-story building is vacant and somewhat run-down, but previously housed medical offices. Main-Summer, which also included a group of doctors, had owned the 18,060-square-foot building "for years and years," according to Jeffrey Wynn, but it had last been renovated in the early 1980s.
The half-acre parcel includes a 67-space parking lot. It had been on the market since at least July 2018, for $2 million.
"It’s not an unattractive building; it’s just that nothing’s been done in 30 years," Wynn said. "The building is nice inside, with some nice interiors."
Wynn plans to repaint the exterior, illuminate the building on the outside, enhance the landscaping and redo the parking.
Then he and his brothers will try to re-lease it, including bringing in a coffee shop, perhaps with a seasonal patio. He said they're "in talks" with Starbucks, although Spot Coffee could be another option, noting that "there's so much going on in that location."
"I love the midtown location," he said. "The whole Main Street is happening."
But that's not his final plan. Wynn sees an opportunity to create a big-city-style signature office building on the site, with glass curtain walls and eight or nine floors. Such a "classy" design would look more like what could be found in New York City, Toronto or Europe, he added, but not in Buffalo.
Instead, he said, much of the architecture in Buffalo is either historic with flair, or it's from the 1960s – with small windows, a dated appearance and "floorplates that don't lend itself to modern office space."
Also, despite its age, the current building is not considered historic, he said, noting that previous owners put on additions in the 1960s and tore down a portion to make room for a parking lot.
"You can't even see the original building anymore," he said. "I love old buildings, but there's nothing worthy."
He proposes demolishing the structure and replacing it with an all-glass building that would be flush to the sidewalk – "so it relates to Main Street and what is going on" – with a coffee shop and other retail on the ground floor. It would be mostly commercial, although there could be some residential apartments on the upper floors.
But first he needs an anchor tenant, which he plans to start seeking. That, plus the planning, design, approval and construction process, could easily take three years or more.
The purchase marks the latest deal in Buffalo for the Wynns, whose family amassed a massive residential and commercial real estate empire in Canada before selling its portfolio of 4,500 apartments and 3 million square feet of commercial space to Timbercreek Asset Management in September 2018, for $1 billion.
The group already had expanded internationally – to the United States, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Israel – and is now concentrating its efforts in those countries. Its U.S. holdings now include properties in Los Angeles, Tulsa and Buffalo, and Wynn is currently working on a development project in the Bahamas, where he plans to live for at least the next year.
Wynn said he particularly enjoys the real estate in Buffalo, which is filled with historic buildings and more lower-priced opportunities compared to Toronto, New York and other large cities.
"Old architecture in Buffalo is the best," said Wynn, who professes an admiration for art deco design. "The new one leaves something to be desired. It looks like a war going on."
The company owns the former Buffalo Athletic Club building at 69 Delaware – next to Niagara Square – and recently bought 42 Delaware across the street. It also acquired the entire Western New York portfolio of Anthony Kissling's Kissling Interests – with 18 buildings, 841 apartments and 85,000 square feet of commercial space – and added Campion Hall Apartments and other multifamily buildings on Delaware and Lafayette avenues.
And he says he's not done.
"Every time I say no, we end up buying something," he chuckled, acknowledging that he's "looking at other stuff" in Buffalo now. "I love Buffalo. It's a beautiful city, and so many things are happening all over Buffalo ... And the people, to deal with, are very easygoing. It's a good people city."