The news broke Friday morning that the City of Buffalo found a buyer for its former police headquarters. That was just the first of two announcements to come regarding Douglas Jemal. It was also revealed he's loaning the city $10 million to expedite work to restore auto traffic along a block of Main Street where his other big property stands.
Jemal was acknowledged by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown during the latter's State of the City Address Friday afternoon, after which both met with reporters to discuss the purchase of the former police headquarters at Franklin and Church Streets.
"I believe in a living downtown and I think that building lends itself to be a great downtown residential building," Jemal said.
During the State of the City, Brown announced Jemal would forward money to get road work moving along Main Street. The city has, gradually, been reworking the thoroughfare so that cars may once again travel along the portions of Main Street where decades ago the road was closed to make way for exclusive use by the NFTA's Matro Rail.
"This is also a benefit to him, even though it's a public infrastructure," said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the city's Office of Strategic Planning. "We have seen, and the mayor, through his economic agenda, by doing the public infrastructure we see the return in the private market."
Jemal is eager to get cars moving along Main Street at One Seneca Tower, where he says work is continuing as it has for the past three years to refit the building for residential and commercial use.
How soon might work begin on the roadway below?
"I'm ready, willing and able. We have to meet with the Department of Transporation and obviously go through some engineering stuff but I'm ready to go," he said.
When suggested the work might take a couple of years, Jemal asked why and responded that "we could open it today."
Although rare, fronting the money for a project such as this is legal, Mehaffy explained, and done in other states. He pointed to a more local example of another project that used fronted money to move a project along.
"Another example is what we're doing right now with the Middle Main project," he said. "The Conventus Building, we were able to use a portion of the tax revenue from that to fund a $10 million improvement to Middle Main. The difference is we had to go through a very rigorous legal bonding process, which takes much more time. It's much more money to go through that type of process.
"We can do it, as long as we have the willing lender, with a private party as well. That's what we have with Doug Jemal."