BUFFALO (WKBW) From nearly filled to almost vacant, the HSBC tower is soon-to-be nearly empty. So the city brought together a panel of experts to make recommendations on its future. Recommendations that could require millions from the public.
"What we're suggesting is that you use the HSBC departure to capitalize on revitalization," Charles Long, chairman of the Urban Land Institute Panel said.
But that revitalization won't be easy. A tough real estate market in Western New York when it comes to office space, apartments, condos, and hotels makes profiting off of a potential investment difficult, with early estimates showing a potential loss of millions of dollars in redevelopment cost.
"Our construction costs are very similar to what they are nationally, but we're not able to get the same types of rents that you get nationally, so somehow you have to address that gap," Stephen Fitzmaurice of Seneca One Realty said.
The panel's answer to that gap is a public-private partnership between city or state government and the building's owners to help cover initial building and development costs, through tax credits or taxpayer fueled direct investment.
"we're talking about tying the public investments to the community benefits that are created, and making an explicit evaluation as to whether those benefits are worth the public investment," Long said. "We're not talking about making a gift of public funds. We're not talking about throwing money down a rat hole. We're talking about specific investments in creating public benefit in association with the revitalization of this site."
"I think if we all work together around the recommendations that we're going to hear today, the outcome will be a good one. I certainly want you to know that the city is committed to that, the community is committed to this as well," Mayor Bryon Brown added.
The next step, according to the panel, will be for stake holders to deal with the building's owed mortgage payments, gain public funds, and then move forward with community supported development plans.
"If we play our cards right, this building could have an assessed value that far exceeds what it is right now," Fitzmaurice added.
HSBC is scheduled to move out of the tower by year's end. Redevelopment after that is still a long way away, according to members of the panel.