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Curb appeal focus of One Seneca Tower developer

File photo

That towering brown tower at the foot of Main Street in downtown Buffalo may look just as it has for the past few years, but owner Douglas Jemal says change is on the way soon for the troubled landmark

Jemal was in Buffalo Wednesday to check in on his $12 million purchase and make a local speech. He said work on One Seneca Tower should start fairly soon, with warmer weather.

Final designs on what the building's 1.1 million square feet of space will look like inside are not completely finished, but the Washington, D.C.-based developer said the 38 floors will be a mix of residential, retail and commercial. There is no decision on how that will break down floor-by-floor, but he is going to start on the outside.

"The whole building remains attractive. I think it's a magnificent building. The exterior needs to be addressed," he said. "My big focus is the courtyard and the street appeal to make it residential friendly and tie it into what's going on at the canal."

Jemal said costs are not clear yet, but much of the building is in better shape than expected.

"The windows actually held up since 1972," he said. "They happen to be very good and there's very, very little leaking in that building. The windows are fine."

However, asbestos will have to be removed. He also is working on the building's wind-tunnel effect.

"We were at a wind tunnel university yesterday in London and we're trying to figure out and solve the wind problem as well, which we think we have 50% of it solved," he said.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
Developer Douglas Jemal will be starting redevelopment of his new purchase, One Seneca Tower, as warm weather begins.

Another issue is the outdated look of the building. Jemal said wants to change that.

"It's a cold look, it's a mall and malls are out of date," he said. "It was a building that was built to serve as a bank and with exterior space and we want to bring the exterior space and make it curb appealing to the outside of the building."

This is the first investment in Buffalo for Jemal. He said he is looking for a house in town because he likes the community and the people, but hedges about sports team support, citing friendship with the owner of the Washington Capitals. He was the keynote speaker Wednesday at Boasting Buffalo.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.