David Sweet has been quietly shopping his five downtown office buildings and according to several downtown sources, a buyer is close to signing on the dotted line. Sweet’s sale intentions were daylighted by The Buffalo News on Saturday:
David Sweet, a fixture downtown since the early 1970s, is selling his commercial real estate holdings along Main Street. That includes such well-known properties as Rand at 14 Lafayette Square, the Main Seneca Building at 237 Main and the Main-Court Building at 436 Main, as well as two smaller adjacent office buildings at 241 and 251 Main, the Roblin and Stanton buildings.
The oldest building, the Stanton, was built in 1873, while the Main Seneca Building dates to 1902 and Rand to 1929. Main Court and Roblin were built in the 1960s.
The five office buildings have 760,137 square feet of rentable space on 64 floors in total, but they are not fully occupied. The Rand Building, the flagship of the group, is about 80 percent occupied, while Main Court is “nearly that,” and the others are “a little less,” Sweet said. “We’re keeping our nose above water.”
Sweet won’t disclose the selling price, but the five buildings are assessed at $12 million in all. He confirmed that “we’ve got somebody that’s looking” at them but wouldn’t disclose the potential buyer’s identity.
The potential buyer, sources say he is a local businessman that has dabbled in city real estate projects, would invest tens of millions of dollars into the properties if the deal is completed. At least three of the buildings’ office space would possibly be converted to residential units.
The market for buildings that can be converted to residential using historic preservation tax credits is red hot. What is not red hot right now is the downtown office market with One Seneca Tower nearly empty and in foreclosure. Sweet’s have nearly as much space as One Seneca.
A Sweet sale and conversion would remove several hundred square feet of class ‘B’ office space from the market, move existing tenants to other space, and add potentially several hundred new apartments downtown. That’s upside all around.