The iconic One Seneca Tower is being placed on the auction block today. The 850,000 square-foot building at the foot of Main Street is almost completely vacant. Buffalo's tallest building is currently valued near $15 million.
The building's future status has created plenty of anxiety in downtown circles. Others are hopeful that a new developer will come up with a reuse plan that creates a buzz similar to the excitement that Canalside has generated.
Stephen Fitzmaurice was the property manager of the complex from 1998 until 2003 when it was One HSBC Center and served as its chief operating officer from 2004 until 2014. He told WBFO he believes the area around the tower has untapped potential.
“Only 60% of the surface area, of the two block area that One Seneca Tower comprises, is developed. There are incredible areas of the tower that could be developed,” he says.
Fitzmaurice is convinced the building should be converted into a mixed use development.
“I would think that office space in the building shouldn’t be more than 400,000 square feet, maybe a little less," he said. "And then when you incorporate the uses like market rate housing or high end condominiums then you open up the possibility for retail."
Fitzmaurice added that adapting some space in the huge structure for market rate residential units could help to bring additional spending into the downtown area and make it easier to lure retailers to One Seneca Tower.
Any attempt to market all or most of the building's square footage as office space could have negative fiscal consequences for other properties, he warned.
“You would have to discount the rates in the building, and after a time you would probably have diminishing return because you don’t have a lot of people that are ready to pick up and move right now. So it would take a while. You would have to discount the prices, and on the flip side of that, you’d end up emptying out a lot of marginal somewhat older office buildings in downtown Buffalo.”
In the end, Fitzmaurice warned, such a strategy could force some buildings in Buffalo into foreclosure.
The parking garage next to One Seneca Tower will also be auctioned off at a later date.