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Recognizing the Potential of One HSBC Center

It is by now well-known that Upstate New York’s tallest office tower will become nearly vacant by the end of the year. After decades of high tenant capacity, the 1.2 million sq. ft. giant will lose more than 90 percent of its current occupants. The biggest movers, HSBC Bank and Phillips Lytle law firm, have opted out of a renewed lease at the tower and already have plans to move into their own respective buildings upon lease expiration.  The tower when completed in 1972 brought new hope in downtown Buffalo. Today it is drab on the outside and in need of new tenants and uses.

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Not only is the building outdated, but the “Class A” office space continues to top the listings of some of the most expensive space to rent in the city. There is no question something needs to be done to the building to keep it competitive in the downtown real estate market. A simple repainting of the exterior from sandcastle grey to a bright clean white might help freshen the aesthetic appearance of the tower. An upgrade is necessary to compete with the new downtown office spaces such as at the Avant.

Now, this may seem far-fetched, but is certainly something to think about. It has worked before. The former Federal Dulski Building went from 1970’s drab, to 2010’s fab. No one can argue that the multimillion-dollar renovation has brought this building back to life both aesthetically and economically. One cannot help but imagine the HSBC Tower stripped to its skeleton and replaced with a fresh, clean, sheet of glass. A building this size in downtown Buffalo would almost have to become mixed used to become a fully-functional space once again, and this time, become a 24/7 hotbed of activity.

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Below is a rough model I drew up in Google SketchUp, showing the potential the building has.

Floor 1: New Metro Rail station

Floors 1-2: Restaurant/Retail Space

Floors 3-13: New Luxury Hotel

Floors 14-24: Class A Office Space

Floors 25-35: Market-Rate Apartments

Floors 36-40: Luxury Condominiums

NEW Floors 41-42: Banquet/Restaurant Space

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Floor 1 will give Hotel guests, office tenants, visitors, and residents direct access to a new metro rail station connecting them to the rest of Main Street without ever having to go outside.

Floors 41 and 42 will be constructed on the top of the existing tower using smaller floor plates built on the center of the current roof structure.

“Bump-outs” would be added on the north and south face of the building creating a more uniform “box-like” exterior and add more definition to the exterior, contrary to the existing rectangular prism that seems irregular in shape when viewed from a diagonal angle.

Balconies would also be added on the Luxury Condo floors similarly to the Avant, offering stunning views of the surrounding cityscape and lakefront.

A new signature “spire” would cap off the redeveloped tower and raise the height significantly, become a glowing beacon on the Buffalo skyline.

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A redevelopment of this stature would by no means be cheap, it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. However, mixed use projects have become more and more prevalent and successful in downtown Buffalo, and while on a much larger scale, the HSBC Center could be an excellent candidate to become one of the city’s most vibrant places to live, work, and play.

What do you think should become of downtown’s tallest building?


Dulski/Avant Photographs courtesy of ArtVoice

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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