HSBC signs off at Buffalo tower

September 3, 2013 Updated Sep 3, 2013 at 1:34 PM EDT

By Allissa Kline - Buffalo Business First Reporter

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HSBC signs off at Buffalo tower

September 3, 2013 Updated Sep 3, 2013 at 1:34 PM EDT

One HSBC Center is undergoing an identity change.

The namesake signage on the city’s tallest building is set to be removed this week, two months before anchor tenant HSBC Bank USA N.A.’s lease expires, a bank spokesperson said Tuesday.

At the same time, the building’s owner is seeking approval from the Buffalo Common Council to change the address of the building to One Seneca Tower, said Steve Fitzmaurice, chief operating officer of Seneca One Realty LLC.

Removal of the four prominent HSBC signs signals a “new beginning” for the 42-year-old, 38-story tower ,whose occupancy rate is expected to fall to 5 percent in January, Fitzmaurice said.

“We’ll have to chart a different course going forward,” he said. “HSBC has been the anchor tenant for four years and that’s been great. They’re the reason the building exists to begin with, but it’s time to move onto our next phase.”

HSBC’s long-time lease ends Oct. 31. The global financial company for months has been moving the tower’s 2,000-some employees out of the building and into one of two other spaces: the nearby HSBC Atrium on Washington Street and the HSBC facility on Walden Avenue in Depew.

Last year, the bank sold its 195-branch Upstate New York retail network. It is investing $35 million to rehabilitate and refurbish both the HSBC Atrium and the Depew office, where workers will handle commercial banking, human resources, legal, risk and compliance, human resources, securities and IT operations.

The tower, meanwhile, currently has 15 tenants, Fitzmaurice said. That includes HSBC and the Phillips Lytle LLP law firm, which plans to move to its new headquarters at One Canalside before the end of the year.

For now, the future of the tower remains unknown. Seneca One Realty is facing a looming $75 million balloon payment to its lenders in January 2015.

Earlier this year, the Urban Land Institute suggested mixed-use development for the site, but some sort of reconciliation between the owner and the lenders would need to happen first, Fitzmaurice said.

He called the tower “a very relevant building” given its proximity to the ongoing development of the Canalside District and the tower’s location at the foot of Main Street.

“We’ve always been the book-end for downtown Buffalo,” he said. “Now we’re no longer the book-end. We’re the bridge ... so we think we’re in a great place right now.”