IBM is coming to Buffalo, but where to?

February 25, 2014 Updated Feb 25, 2014 at 10:28 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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IBM is coming to Buffalo, but where to?

February 25, 2014 Updated Feb 25, 2014 at 10:28 AM EDT


Perhaps one of the bigger questions left unanswered about where IBM will locate its new, downtown Buffalo innovation center remains open-ended.

This much is know: Key players from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and IBM officials did not have a direct answer when repeatedly asked during Monday afternoon's announcement centering on the company's decision to locate the center in downtown. IBM will be creating at least 500 high paying, tech-based jobs in the proposed 100,000-square-foot center.

And, both Cuomo and IBM officials said they want the center open by next year.

"We're still going through where it will be a rehab or new," Cuomo said.

If the project remains in the spine between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the southern end of the central business district, there are options - both for a new building and for renovating an existing structure.

New York state will actually build the structure as part of a handsome $55 million incentive package offered to IBM to bring the center and jobs to Buffalo.

Among the more obvious candidates:

• Adding additional floors to Ciminelli Real Estate's Conventus building, which sits at the corner of Main and High streets and serves as a medical campus gateway. Conventus is already under construction.

• Renovating the Salvation Army building that Ciminelli has under contract and is just across Main Street from the Conventus site.

• Putting additional floors on the University at Buffalo's School of Biomedical Sciences building, although that structure isn't due to open for another two years.

• Building on a site somewhere else in the medical campus. The downside is that, the project would have to go through the Buffalo review process that could delay construction commencing for more than a few months.

"If I had my preference, I would see it closer to the medical campus," Poloncarz said.

• Taking over soon-to-be empty space in Key Center. Delaware North will be leaving a 100,000-square-foot hole in the complex when it leaves next year for its new offices at 250 Delaware Avenue. State officials, however, want IBM to anchor what will be innovation hub and not just serve as a stand alone project. Existing tenants would have be shuffled within the tower.

• Building somewhere along the Elm-Oak corridor, much like Catholic Health is doing with its corporate headquarters and training center that's due to open later this year.

• The long vacant AM&As building on Main Street. Many issues remain including dealing with out-of-town ownership and the poor shape of the building.

• Seneca One Tower, which is now largely vacant, but remains a downtown signature building by virtue of its location and sheer size. It comes with a lots of parking and sits on the edge of the fast emerging Canalside District. Yes, it would need a technological upgrade.

• Waterfront Village, whose buildings sold last month and whose tenants already include an IBM sales office.

• The Carlo, a 14-story, mixed-use project being proposed by Carl Paladino's Ellicott Development Co. Chances are slim that Cuomo would sign off on political rival Paladino landing this deal.

• Compass East, the former Sheehan Hospital, is being redeveloped by McGuire Development into a multi-tenant office and training center. McGuire, along with LPCiminelli, earlier this month were named designated developers for undisclosed projects related to Buffalo's fast-emerging nano technology projects.

• Anywhere in the Larkin District. Developed by Howard Zemsky, a close Cuomo associate, Larkinville is loaded with growing businesses. It doesn't have to be one of Zemsky's buildings, either. Developers like Sam Savarino and Jim Cornell each have major holdings within the district that might be considered.

"Every location is being considered, but we also have to pick a situation that works best for IBM," Poloncarz said.

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