We should all be rooting for Kyle Ciminelli’s success. He’s leading the effort to fill Seneca One tower, downtown’s largest building that was left for dead just a few years ago and is now filling with technology-focused companies.
Finished in 1972 for Marine Midland Bank, the complex that spans the foot of Main Street was in foreclosure and nearly empty when Douglas Jemal purchased it in 2016. Shortly thereafter, Jemal began an ambitious $120 million renovation effort. That work included: office space additions and façade changes to activate its lower floors, two retail buildings and two clubhouses on the plaza along Seneca Street, 115 apartments in the annex buildings, upgrades to the building’s mechanical systems, and to top it off, a new maroon color.
The building’s tech future began with a bang. In June 2019, Jemal landed M&T Bank’s tech hub lease. The 330,000 sq.ft. commitment affirmed his vision for the property – a mixed-use anchor for downtown with amenities designed to attract technology firms. The M&T endorsement of that vision kickstarted leasing efforts. Shortly afterwards, 43North announced plans to move its incubator space into the building. SMP Corporation followed in March 2020 and Odoo last April.
Kyle Ciminelli, Executive Vice President at Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation, and his team took on the job overseeing the lease up of the complex last June. It was a homecoming for Kyle.
Ciminelli spent 16 years in New York City honing his real estate skills proving real estate servies to both tenants and landlords. Before returning to Buffalo, he was Executive Managing Director in the New York office of Newmark, a global real estate firm.
The itch to return to Buffalo was constant. Buffalo’s strengthening real estate market and a growing family were enough to convince Ciminelli the timing was right. He came back to the family business in 2019, heading Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation’s commercial leasing efforts.
Last August, Ciminelli Real Estate was named property manager and exclusive commercial leasing agent for the Seneca One complex including its office and retail space and took over management of the residential space.
Also in August, Kyle brokered the deal to bring another key tenant to the tower, co-working space provider Serendipity Labs. The Buffalo location joined Serendipity Labs’ network of more than 35 locations in 19 states throughout the United States. The addition of Serendipity, which opened in March, allows Seneca One to be accessible to businesses of all sizes.
“Due to the layout of the tower’s floors, we have generally been marketing the office space to larger users,” says Ciminelli. While a few tenants have taken smaller spaces on the 28th floor, Ciminelli says the tower’s floors work best in suites of 6,000 to 8,000 sq. ft. and larger.
Serendipty allows a diverse group of remote workers, freelancers, and both small and larger businesses to work in a shared, communal setting. Workers can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space or in a collaborative space with shared tables. There are primarily private offices for one or two people, and larger team rooms for groups of three or more.
“Serendipity is all about flexibility,” says Ciminelli. “There’s no long-term lease necessary. Its users have access to all of Serendipity’s amenities but also access to Seneca One and the tech community being created here.”
“The Seneca One location was one of Serendipity’s top three most successful openings,” adds Ciminelli.
Kyle’s ties to Newmark led to an alliance in December. Ciminelli Real Estate’s brokerage team now operates under the Newmark umbrella as Newmark Ciminelli. Newmark has 18,800 real estate agents in 500 offices worldwide, generating $2.2 billion in revenues last year.
This year, PCI Associates leased 11,000 sq.ft. on the 30th floor and AML RightSource took the 27th floor.
“With M&T officially opening its tech hub in April, and its employees occupying the space in phases, the positive energy in the building is increasing,” says Ciminelli.
M&T Bank spent $58 million to transform its Tech Hub space. It occupies 13 floors in the building, including floors 13 through 23 in the tower. It also took two large floors in the base of the complex- the Plaza and Pearl levels. The company plans to create over 1,000 jobs in the tower, and according to local development officials, the Tech Hub will be a driving force for the city’s tech community.
“M&T Bank has created something special here,” says Ciminelli. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ciminelli says the bank has shown the potential for the building’s space and will make the job of filling the remainder of it easier.
“We have been using the Newmark network and its access to nationwide tech companies to market the building,” says Ciminelli. “The M&T space is a big draw. It will be a magnet for others.”
Ciminelli says Seneca One is an outstanding opportunity to bring new businesses to Western New York.
It was also help keep businesses in the area. Having 43North and its portfolio of companies in the building is significant. “It will be a supply of tenants. As these companies establish and grow their business locally, it is likely many of them will chose to stay in the complex,” says Ciminelli.
He says Buffalo is well positioned in a post-Covid world.
The shift towards remote work has brought ex-pats back to Buffalo. They grew up here and felt the urge to return to their roots when the pandemic hit. Those already questioning the affordability and lifestyle of top-tier city living were spurred to take a closer look at a permanent move elsewhere.
Businesses that went remote are now assessing when to bring employees back to the office and what that looks like and where. Many companies have been decentralizing their operations and the pandemic may speed up that process. Buffalo’s lower cost office space, lower cost of living, attractions, growing tech scene, and growing pool of tech talent can be draws for firms looking for more affordable, less dense cities.
In the competition for talent, employers are looking for ways to make office work more appealing. They are looking for create ways to make spending time in the office enjoyable, convenient and affordable. Jemal is developing what the “creative class” is looking for- a place to live, work and play in a dynamic neighborhood. He has plans to construct an apartment building to the west of the Seneca One complex, is putting apartments in the former police headquarters on Franklin Street, and has other projects around downtown.
At Seneca One, his focus has been on providing amenities for tenants and visitors including event spaces, a lobby bar, temporary banquet space on the 36th floor, a food hall, fitness center, a 200+ seat auditorium, club house, and open air plaza spaces. He recently obtained approval to add 33 apartments to the eastern plaza.
As for the complex’s retail space, Ciminelli says Jemal is being patient. “We are treating it as pop-up space for now. Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing Co. will be opening in 11,000 sq.ft. of space soon in the new retail buildings. Indoor cycling studio Revolution Buffalo is taking over the eastern club house. Both are short-term arrangements.
M&T Bank expects to have 1,500 employees at Seneca One within three years. It has an option for 100,000 square feet of space in the tower’s lower floors. That leaves space on the plaza level, the 25th floor, and floors 31 to 38 left to fill.
“Within a year, I expect the building to be 85 to 90 percent leased,” says Ciminelli. He says talks are underway with four office tenants for space in the building. “Two are local and two are from outside of the area,” he says. “There is definite momentum with both local and national interest. Everyone is selling Buffalo right now. Word spreads.”
Asked where the overflow will go once Seneca One fills up, Ciminelli says, “I’m sure Doug will find something.”
Get Connected: Kyle Ciminelli – firstname.lastname@example.org or 716.817.2015