Last evening, members of The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), the City of Buffalo, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA), and national consulting firm Stantec Urban Places gathered together to lay out their agenda for the week-long charrette – The Future of Mobility: Remaking Buffalo for the 21st Century – that extends to February 29th at the Seneca One Tower. You can learn more about the national team of transportation experts’ role in introducing transportation technology to Buffalo’s radar by clicking here.
As much as it was interesting to see so many of Buffalo’s shareholders attend the event, what was especially fascinating was checking out some of the initial development progress inside Seneca One. Of course this was only a sneak peek, but being back inside the towering building was a welcome surprise after all of these years.
It was also nice seeing developer Douglas Jemal on-hand – it was the first time that I had ever met him in person. Not only was he kind enough to open his doors to those attending The Future of Mobility event, he was also jovial and down to earth… as if he has been living in this city all along.
A trip to One Seneca begins with a viewing of artist Ronald Bladen’s “Vroom, Shhh” 1973 sculpture on the concourse. The escalator ride to the lobby of Seneca One is always a treat. It’s got to be the longest in Buffalo.
Then, arriving at the top, there is another Bladen sculpture, although all the rest of the artwork from the One Marine Midland Center era that could be toted through the front doors is now gone, including this marvelous Harry Bertoia screen. But beggars can’t be choosers, and we have been begging someone like Jemal to come to town to save this building.
In place of the art that is now long gone, Jemal has been adding his own personal flair to the building’s interior, and exterior for that matter. In the lobby, there is a wooden canoe hanging from a wall, an old fashioned car, and a stunning Italian gondola.
There was certainly a lot to look at, including an original bank vault with safe deposit boxes.
There was also a rumor circulating that the bar in the lobby was originally from the show The Sopranos (the bar in the show was called Bada Bing). I spoke to Nick Pitillo, owner of Osteria 166 (Pitillo landed the catering gig for One Seneca – Occasions by Osteria), who assured me that the rumor was true – per Douglas Jemal. I suppose if anyone could acquire the infamous bar, it would be Jemal.
I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing a bevy of unusual surprises from Jemal and his development team. Not only is he the real deal, he’s also got some fun tricks up his sleeve.
Seneca One has certainly been a missing piece of the Buffalo development puzzle. It’s hard to believe that this sprawling tower, with so many amenities, has been sitting idly by for all these years. Now, Jemal is injecting life into downtown Buffalo by not only investing in the tower itself, but also the concourse around it, which is the smartest thing that anyone could do.
Click here to see some more of what’s to come.