Seneca One developer Douglas Jemal buys historic former firehouse

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Washington developer Douglas Jemal hasn’t had to put out too many fires in dealing with his renovation of Seneca One Tower.

But just in case, he now owns a firehouse.

Jemal on Tuesday bought the historic former Hook & Ladder No. 8 building at 174 Chicago St., paying $325,000 for the two-and-a-half-story brick building, located behind the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. He bought it from William J. Jones’ CityView Construction Management, through Chicago Fire LLC, which in turn had acquired it in 2014 from the Priebe family.

The deal also includes 186 Chicago and 83 Fulton St.

Built in 1900, the 5,928-square-foot building sits on a quarter-acre of land, and had been used as a firehouse as far back as 1908, when it still had a peaked-roof third floor that has since been removed. More recently, it’s been used for storage.

Jemal noted that “it’s small” but has “unlimited potential,” calling it “a unique piece of property” and “a jewel.” He said he envisions a “cool bar and three to four residential units” if “the football stadium comes downtown, which I think it will.”

The fire pole is gone, but the old lockers remain, where firefighters carved their initials in the 1930s. Jemal said he also plans to buy an old Buffalo firetruck from Jim Sandoro, owner of the Buffalo Transportation Museum.

“I’m very excited,” Jemal said. “I just want to show that community how bullish I am in that city. I put my money where my mouth is.”

This is the sixth property purchase in Buffalo for Jemal, who entered the marketplace with a splash when he emerged to buy Seneca One out of foreclosure for $12.6 million. He has since embarked on a major $120 million redevelopment of the empty tower complex, creating 115 apartments in one of the annex buildings and adding retail space on the plaza level. He’s also erecting two clubhouse buildings on the plaza at Main and Seneca streets, to provide venues for entertainment and social gatherings, and is redesigning the concourse to make it more friendly and comfortable for pedestrians.

Most recently, he landed M&T Bank Corp. as the anchor tenant for the redevelopment in a major coup that significantly advances the entire project. The bank plans to create a technology hub in the building with 1,500 employees, occupying the two renovated and expanded base levels of the pedestal and annexes along with 11 floors of the tower. That’s also attracted 43North, the state-funded business plan competition that has raised Buffalo’s visibility in the technology world.

Meanwhile, Jemal also purchased the River Rock Industrial Incubator property on Rano Street in Black Rock and the former Buffalo Police headquarters building at 74 Franklin St. in downtown Buffalo, which he plans to convert into an apartment building dubbed “The Police.” He also bought a home on Nottingham Terrace. And he acquired the Boulevard Mall and neighboring Wegmans supermarket in Amherst for $30 million, with plans to remake the mall.

“I think you have to have a police station, a fire house, a Seneca One and a Boulevard Mall,” he joked.

Souroce:  The Buffalo News

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