HSBC Leaving Tower

HSBC will be vacating its signature tower when its lease expires in October 2013.  Bank employees currently occupy 2/3 of the 38-story building straddling Main Street, or 650,000 sq.ft.  The move will leave the tower nearly 90 percent vacant.  Law firm Phillips Lytle will be moving to One Canalside next year and the tower recently lost tenants Capital One Financial and the Canadian Consulate.

Buffalo Business First has the scoop:

The longtime anchor tenant of the tallest building in Buffalo plans to shift employees to two locations: the HSBC Atrium on Washington Street and its facility in Depew, spokesperson Neil Brazil said. Renovations at both sites will take place to accommodate the additional workers.

Employees were notified of the changes Wednesday morning, Brazil said. No job losses are planned as a result of the shift, he said.

“We think this is a good piece of news for Buffalo,” Brazil said. “Nobody is going to lose their job as a result of this announcement.”

Flooding the market with over 700,000 sq.ft. of available space is a significant blow to developers and landlords where, in a good year, downtown absorbs 200,000 sq.ft. of office space.

Tower owner Seneca One Realty LLC has begun exploring options including adding residential and/or hotel space to the building.  The owner is planning to bring in a panel of Urban Land Institute professionals to study possible new uses and a redevelopment strategy for the building.

HSBC_0150.JPG

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71 comments
https://me.yahoo.com/a/U.ecP8YAm8sROm2VQAYOavWuww-
https://me.yahoo.com/a/U.ecP8YAm8sROm2VQAYOavWuww-

so you want someone that is owed $75 million to just tear down their asset they hold as collateral?

i don't understand where the lets just tear it down argument comes from on here. it's an asset that has value at some price. tearing it down leaves the land, and what is that worth?

people in business don't just say, oh well, lets wreck it!

BuffaloCity
BuffaloCity

Why not take the building down? Buffalo is not the city it was 40 years ago when the tower was built and does not have the population or business activity for so much office space. It's not a historic building nor is it all that attractive. Unless a good use can be made if it, and fast, an almost completely vacant office tower in the heart of downtown sends a terrible message to the world about Buffalo. Taking the building down now instead of a future of failed ideas and multiple bankruptcies is not a sign of defeat, but one of foresight. Local developers who have the most to lose with that much vacant downtown office space should pool their resources and make it happen. I love Buffalo; it truly is a great American city. Removing One HSBC Center will not diminish its greatness, but make it stronger in the long run.

Dan Morrow
Dan Morrow

DeanerPPX:

Sorry, I've haven't heard either story before and can't confirm, but I have a few comments.

The Bank of America Building in San Francisco, also designed by SOM SF, was completed a few years before MM and it had angled corners. However, I can't say for certain that the B of A corner design was based on wind considerations (nor can I say that MM's corners were either).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555_California_Street

I doubt that a discarded plan for Pan Am/Met Life figured in the design of MM because: (1) No evidence of any SOM office working on Pan AM/Met Life, (2) little similarity between MM at 38 stories and 18.500 SF floor plates and Pan Am/Met Life at 59 stories and 40,000+ SF floor plates, (although I'll grant you that the way MM "sits" over Main Street is somewhat similar to the way Pan Am/Met Life appears to sit over both Park Avenue and 44th Street, from some locations) (3) Pan Am/Met Life was so wildly unpopular, I just think I would have heard about it there was any connection, even to a discarded concept.

I'm not aware of any real crossover between team members on the two projects. MM was designed by SOM SF, sole architects. Pan Am/Met Life was by Emery Roth and Sons with Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi. A very remote connection I can think of: Belluschi was an associated architect to SOM SF on the B of A Building above, Marc Goldstein worked with Belluschi on B of A, and Goldstein headed design on MM. However, I don't think Belluschi had any involvement with, nor influence on, the design of MM.

An aside: There was a very famous discarded Pan Am design by Marcel Breuer, famous enough for Ada Louise Huxtable to call it "a gargantuan tower of aggressive vulgarity."

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

If you worked for SOM around the time of MM's design, can you confirm a couple stories I've heard about the building?

It's my understanding that the beveled corners were one of the first uses of such a feature to combat windflow after its aerodynamics were studied in a wind tunnel. MM marks a milestone in the transition from 90-degree corners to inset corners in the design of high-rise structures.

Also, I've heard that the general design was a re-use of the discarded original proposal for the Pan Am/ MetLife building in NYC. Were any of the same team members involved in the two structures?

Thanks if you can confirm or deny either of these statements!

Dan Morrow
Dan Morrow

I worked for SOM San Francisco in the 1970s and can add a few facts.

Gordon Bunshaft designed the Marine Midland Building at 140 Broadway in NYC, the Knox addition to the Albright Knox AG, and presented the first master plan to UB trustees that included the possibility of an Amherst Campus, but he never worked on the Marine Midland Building in Buffalo. It was designed by the San Francisco office of SOM, with Marc Goldstein in charge of design.

The total complex square footage is about 1,200,000 SF, once you add in the low rise buildings and the extensive square footage below grade.

There's an interesting Buffalo - Bauhaus connection associated with this building: The partner in charge of the project for SOM was John Barney "Jack" Rodgers. Rodgers was a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton in 1926, stayed on for a masters, worked as a designer for Bley & Lyman for a few years and then went to the Berlin Bauhaus in 1930. He was fluent in German and often translated for Mies von der Rohe. After the Bauhaus he returned to practice in Chicago. He again served as a translator for Mies, when Mies came to the Armour Institute (now IIT) around 1937. After WWII, Rodgers joined SOM and in 1947 was sent to San Francisco to open the SOM's first west coast office. The Marine Midland Center was one of his last projects.

If anyone is still reading this post, I recommend the Chicago Architects Oral History Project Interviews with Gordon Bunshaft and Marc Goldstein.

http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/caohp

The Bunshaft interview includes his frank assessment of Nat Owings ("a bum") and recounts the time the first person to arrive at work one day found Owings passed out in the elevator. I believe this is a true story, since I heard it back in the 1970s. The Goldstein interview includes his praise for Seymour Knox II, who he describes as one of the two best clients he ever worked for.

LouisTully
LouisTully

I'd make it a packaged thing for the observation deck. Like a restaurant/bar. Could be like the cocktail bar up top of the Hancock building in Chicago. Why not put the Fandemonium museum or bar or whatever it is up there, Mike Weekes.

Shoey
Shoey

I really hope they fill the building, having something in our most dominating skyline presence is very important in a lot of ways... but it's incredibly important to the psyche of downtown and Buffalo as a whole. Filling this huge building would prove in a lot of ways that a renaissance downtown is truly underway and not just something we all talk about.

look at multi-purpose, there's no reason to put all of the eggs into a single basket.

I know we're not NYC or Toronto, but would an observation deck with a minimal fee be a terrible idea? I'd pay 5-10 bucks to see a view very few people that aren't wearing a suit ever get to see.

LouisTully
LouisTully

I hope I find a genie lamp before you.

Greenca
Greenca

I completely agree with you. The 190 will never go away, nor will the HSBC Center. The Skyway, perhaps,, but I am not holding my breath. As I said, it's only a fantasy. These three things completely cut off the business district from the lake and all three never should have been built where they are. Unfortunately we are stuck with them.

LouisTully
LouisTully

I am by no means a fan of this building, for a variety of reasons. However, I think you're right and I agree with you regarding celebrating a contribution from a renowned architect, particularly since he was a Buffalo native.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Bunshaft

He was a Pritzker Award recipient, which holds some pretty solid architects in its ranks.

A side:

I recall from Goldman's City on the Edge something about a connection between him and UB North. Anyone got more?

ladyinwhite
ladyinwhite

Actually, just taking down the ultra tacky HSBC plywood signs down will do wonders for the city.

JohnMarko
JohnMarko

NO! NO! NO!

A THOUSAND TIMES NO to the horrible idea of re-skinning the building! This is a prominent featured design of SOM, and is a fine and handsome example of the period. In fact, it is in many books on Architectural History. There are similar ones in Milwalkee, Minneapolis and Johannesburg, SA also designed by SOM (and Buffalo's own) Gordon Bunshaft.

I sure hope some people soon rush to put that building on the list of historic buildings/register.

Ya know, come to think of it, the Empire State, Chrysler and Guaranty buildings are all "so dated" - why not give them a "fresh look" too!!! Same with every other horrible OLD building!

You people astound me sometime - and not in a good way...

B-ball
B-ball

[Deleted: off-topic]

Slu
Slu

You have never been on one of these floors. While what you say is true, the space is not designed well. All the usable space "rings" around huge elevator banks. From the elevator banks to the windows on my floor, there is really only room for 4 desks or so. And these are not large desks either.

Buffalo_Resurrection
Buffalo_Resurrection

Convert the building into the "new" Catholic Health System Administration Building.

Just need to make the doors wider so the VP of Facility Planning can fit his head through them!

mattg
mattg

I'm proposing the idea that the Bills no play their games in a new NFL format where the field is verticle. The fans will all watch from the lower floors on small tvs similar to those on airplanes. I think this could be huge for the city of Buffalo.

It stands as much of a chance as the Bills moving to the waterfront.

biniszkiewicz
biniszkiewicz

this is a different lending market. New owners won't get financing for an empty building. They have to come to the table with money. Perhaps some REIT buys it at a fire sale price. Whoever it is, they'll need money in hand and at risk.

I don't see any benefit of any owner inflating expected rents and keeping the place empty; the carrying costs (heat, elevators, security, et al) would eat an owner alive without tenants paying the freight.

Therein lies the danger to the bottom of the market: the new owners of this place will have a big incentive to fill it up, even if that means discounting rent. Those rent discounts will then echo throughout the market in B and C buildings.

buffknut
buffknut

The building needs a fitness center and generators if it wants to attract tenants. Some of the floors are dumps.

Gardner
Gardner

This could be an opportunity for WNY Leadership to proactively reach out to private companies in the same industry. While it would most likely require incentives, I would think there are several large financial services firms that would be willing to look a Class A office space in upstate's largest office building next to the Canalside development. In addition, large NYC based firms (think American Express or JPMC) would probably receive significant perks from the New York for expanding within the state.

Given that WNY has traditionally been strong for back office operations in the financial services industry, I would hope someone is thinking of this (besides me).

saltecks
saltecks

What are you talking about. This is not a jobs issue. The jobs will remain in the Buffalo metro. In fact, between HSBC and PHH mortgage, the number of jobs will actually increase in WNY. What this should not be about is showing favoritism to one real estate firm over another. Especially one which has acted irresponsibly since they purchased the property.

Timothy Domst
Timothy Domst

They can put the Broadway Market in there; two floors of kielbasa, a floor for butter lambs, a floor with cartoon poster maps of Buffalo that have ads for businesses all over them, one for kiss-me-I'm-an-ethnicity t-shirts, and a floor full of foam chicken wing headgear.

newskylinebuffalo
newskylinebuffalo

That's what happens when you have **** owners! The Bank actually wanted to stay there but Seneca One would not allow simple add-on's to make it more feasible and workable. Finally they will pay the price for their non-business like behavior.

whatever
whatever

Back to the '50s then: the Lt Gov is upstater Rochester's former Mayor Duffy.

Hooray, or something.

whatever
whatever

Back office operations do happen here.... Citicorp, BoA, etc.

You really suppose large firms in NYC aren't already well aware of the concept, and don't have whole departments who analyze the pros/cons of which jobs to move, and evaluate candidate cities/regions for it?

And you're scapegoating Schumer & Gillibrand for them not somehow causing more of it to happen? What _federal_ incentives do you imagine they could "dole" out for moving jobs between cities?

Ricchiazzi>"Gillibrand and Schumer should be going door to door lobbying banking, insurance, media, and publishing firms in NYC to convince them to relocate their back office and support operations to Buffalo"

They do some lobbying like that, but you realize they're senators for the whole state, don't you?

Why would/should they focus so much on Buffalo and not Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Elmira, Binghamton, Troy, Watertown, other cities in the Hudson Valley, ...

Having Schumer or Gilly go "door to door" contacting executives in NYC to proactively read off lists of Upstate city names isn't likely to make any real difference.

The idea of them doing it is funny, however - so at least there's that.

Maybe one day each month there should be a telethon with them phoning up NYC co's on behalf of one Upstate city, cold calling to pitch it as a back office idea.

(lol, maybe Gilly's predecessor Hillary could've tried that when her "200,000 new jobs for Upstate" campaign promise fell short by about, um - 200,000)

New2Buffalo
New2Buffalo

I currently work in One HSBC Center. I have worked in some other corporate settings in Buffalo and visited others where friends or family work. BY FAR this building has the sweetest views in all of Buffalo. While it was built quite a while ago the facilities have been well taken care of and don't feel dingy and old and depressing to work in. Yes the cubicles in my office are not the most inspiring work spaces but those are not structural and can be found in a modern or old building. I am very happy to be working on a floor in a building where I can take a quick stroll and see as far as one can see in every direction without leaving that floor. I can see the mist flying up from Niagara Falls as I endure a painfully slow printing session. Next as I walk to the coffee station I can view straight down into Coca Cola Field and just off in the distance is Central Terminal. Take another few steps and I'm looking at the bending Buffalo River and the grain elevators on it's banks. I can see everything there is to see in just a minute. That would be a sick apartment or office space for anyone or any company. The building isn't that interesting on the outside but it doesn't look like a dump at all. Not every building in NYC, LA, SF, etc looks as cool as say Buffalo City Hall and that's ok as long as the building is kept in good shape and has updated the facilities that matter for every day business. Last time I checked we had high speed internet access, 100% working elevators, a food court, and clean, working bathrooms in my office.

grad94
grad94

whatever it looks like above the second floor is not the problem, it is the tower's barren, elevated plaza and blank walls at street level that are the problem. replace the plaza with simple grade-level entrances and this building will be a much better neighbor.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Waste of a fantasy. Booze and women, booze and women.

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

The Skyway being torn down... possible. 190 being torn down... never gonna happen.

Greenca
Greenca

My fantasy would be to demolish this building and the 190/Skyway to reconnect Main St and downtown with the lake. Alas, only a fantasy. Who knows what will become of it.

paulsobo
paulsobo

It most certainly is the job of the Senators and Congressmen/women. They lobby for jobs for their state all the time...government jobs and private sector jobs.

Up until the 1950s, NYS generally had a downstate governor and an upstate Lt. governor. It was shared power and the Lt Governor often used his position to lobby on behalf of the interests of upstate.

to say otherwise is madness...simply untrue

Tom
Tom

thats what I was thinking. Make the top few floors condos, I think they would very quickly sell with a high margin of profit. Either put or hotel in there or try to get new office space tenants. I don't think this space will remain empty long.

buffaloroam
buffaloroam

The tower in Minneapolis (thanks for the link) houses a 583 room full service Marriot Hotel. Is it possible that down the road we could see a new convention center in the cobblestone district and a full service hotel here to cater to it? Just a pipe dream? What do you think?

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

This certainly isn't good news. But I agree that since it IS our only real skyscraper, it should stay. Seneca One needs to just face that they aren't going to attract Class A tenants and start by just getting SOMEBODY in it. It's a shame Catholic Health decided to build a new and unnecessary building. Maybe they could have put their 700 employees in there...

Either way, something other than tearing down should be done. At least work on the inside/remodel to get some tenants and then (hopefully) reskin it in future. I don't really see turning it into apartments as being a great move, but hey, maybe it is a good idea...

WIGS
WIGS

The floor plates are 18,500 SF of "of uninterrupted, column-free space per tower floor". That's a good size considering it was completed in 1972.

Here in Calgary we have numerous 400+ foot tall buildings. I've worked in one that was 34 stories and the floor plates were around 15,000 SF. No tenant complained they were small. Yes compared to buildings built in the past 10 years they're small but most North American cities don't have many new skyscrapers.

just my $0.02.

I would argue that the floor plates are large in comparison to most of WNY building stock.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

It is pretty undesierable in the MPM, I realize that. And that's why opening up the MMC's first couple of floors (the big ones) would help. And I'm also not saying to shove a big box in there, I'm talking small business retail/small retail...unless there is room to grow perhaps.

Slu
Slu

As someone who works in the building, you are correct. This building is dated in a lot of ways and needs many improvements to stay competitive in the market. I think mixed use really is the future of the tower.

MEG
MEG

We have a downtown mall. Please use its level of success as a commonsense indicator of the plausibility of a mall in an office tower.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

This is super optimal for hotel space (something Buffalo will need if the Bills wish to stay here in the future and host a super Bowl in a new stadium), apartments, office on the lower levels and that big footprint is great for a mall if opened up a bit (not a big mall...) I'm not trying to be an armchair quarterback here, it's just what I see coming down the Skyway and 190.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

This is our only REAL skyscraper...no, City Hall and the medical buildings are no skyscrapers. Visit our fellow Rust Belt cities to see skyscrapers, heck, you can even go to Niagara Falls ONT. and see some high rises. My point is that for now, until Buffalo becomes one of the biggest cities in the country again (skyscrapers everywhere), this needs to be filled and maintained. As a literal symbol of Buffalo since non-Buffalonians along that big Thruway bridge in Chickatowaga can look out over the rail yard and say, "Hmm guys, that must be where the chicken-wing-and-blizzards happen", this needs to also be retrofitted, and should have a nice size corporation in there. Like Deleware North for example, they are a company with a ton of room to grow. They own the Bruins for crying out loud. But in the immediate future, things will get worse before they get better.

Dan
Dan

Not to be a skyline geek, but do you really want Rochester to have the most impressive skyline in upstate New York?

Dan
Dan

That answers some of my questions. Thanks!

The tower is on the skinny side for a 40 story structure.

paulsobo
paulsobo

I would like to agree with you because I hate its location in the middle of Main Street...separates the entire city from the waterfront.

but we might never get another 650,000 sqft tower in Buffalo...thats alot to give up

Dan
Dan

How about connecting it with light rail to UB ... uhh, never mind.

Dan
Dan

> In the interim, the lender might fill it with tenants to the best of its ability, or might not. It might try to boost the value of the asset before disposition by tenanting the place or they might only concentrate on selling the property quickly, eating whatever loss they must.

A worst case scenario: a new non-local owner takes possession of the building at a fire sale price. They boost the lease rates to a point far above the market. The potential income from the high rents is used to increase the appraised value of the property. The inflated appraised value is considered an asset for the purposes of acquiring financing for projects with a potentially high rate of return. The tower stays empty, yet the owner still profits from it.

Chris
Chris

Demolish it and reopen Main Street between downtown and the waterfront.

saltecks
saltecks

"In terms of finding a new tenant to occupy downtown’s tallest building, we already have in place a number of strategic initiatives designed to attract new investment to the building and in downtown Buffalo, including the Buffalo Building Reuse Project, that have already generated interest from potentially new anchor tenants.” -Mayor Brown

hamp
hamp

This is one building I wouldn't mind seeing demolished.

By straddling Main Street, it has helped cut off the rest of downtown from the waterfront.

Get rid of the ugly tower and the barren, windswept plaza, and help connect Main Street to Canalside.

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