Seneca One owner not worried about "exodus" from big cities

Hear from M&T Bank about changing workplace dynamics in the wake of COVID-19

Mike Baggerman
July 09, 2020 - 3:00 am
Lobby of Seneca One Tower. July 8, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Lobby of Seneca One Tower. July 8, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – The developer of Buffalo’s tallest building is not worried about the possible impact association with more people opting to work from home and millennials moving to suburban areas.

“To me, you’re going to want to come here,” Douglas Jemal said of Seneca One Tower. “That’s why everybody is here because you want to come here. We’re all dying to interact again. We’re sick and tired of sitting in the four rooms of a house. I think if you make a sense of place and a sense of being, people are going to want to be here.”

Hessam Nadji, the CEO of Marcus & Millichap President and CEO, told CNBC he expects an “exodus” of from city centers to last up to two years.

“We’re seeing there’s a lot of office vacancy, for example, in the suburbs that have now been absorbed; there’s a lot of demand for rental homes that we’re seeing because people are fleeing especially hot spots like New York, but ... you just have to keep a long-term view on it,” Nadji said.

Nadji does not expect there to be a permanent loss in interest, which paints a positive outlook for the future of Downtown Buffalo.

Jemal hopes Seneca One will be a spark for the region and inspire people to move here.

Douglas Jemal at Seneca One Tower. July 8, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)
Douglas Jemal at Seneca One Tower. July 8, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

“We have to show them that we’re building and that we’re moving and we’re doing things and that there’s action going on,” Jemal said. “We’re not dormant. It can’t just be a conversation. It has to be action.”

The developer remains optimistic about the future of the Boulevard Mall and his goal to turn it into a new community.

“You have to change with the times,” Jemal said of one of his other projects. “It’s an adaptive re-use. Just like (Seneca One), an adaptive reuse. It was a long, tall, tower that had 5,000 employees that went to work every day. Now, with urbanites moving into every major city…we have to be in a position to receive them.”

Jemal also purchased the former Buffalo Police Headquarters on Franklin and Court Streets in Buffalo. That building will become apartments.

M&T Bank is planning to utilize 11 of the 38 floors at Seneca One Tower for its tech hub. Coronavirus delayed their plans to set up shop because it halted Jemal’s team from renovating for three months.

The company’s Chief Information Officer, Michael Wisler, said their company expects to use Buffalo’s tallest building to attract professionals into Buffalo. However, they also acknowledged that more people are starting to work from home now than before.

“I think about it less binary than is it remote or is it office,” Wisler said. “When you think about modern teams and modern talents, you think about mobility and flexibility and make sure teams have the tools and place to rally when they need to rally and have the tools when they need to be productive when they can’t be in the same space.”

Seneca One Tower is expected to open in the next two or three months. M&T Bank will operate there in the weeks following the completed renovation.

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