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Marine Midland Plaza

Buffalo firm set to buy
Marine Midland Plaza

A Buffalo-based developer plans to acquire Marine Midland Plaza.
Benderson Development Co. Inc. reportedly has signed an offer to buy the 21-story downtown office tower and is awaiting closing.
Donald Robinson, vice president of acquisitions for Benderson Development, declined to speak about the deal.
The building’s property manager, Thomas Hartwig of Cushman & Wakefield Inc., said the acquisition is “something I can’t comment on, yet.”
Marine Midland Plaza sits at the intersection of Chestnut and Court streets adjacent to Midtown Plaza and Xerox Square.
With 378,000 square feet of net leasable space, it is among downtown Rochester’s largest office buildings. In recent years the building has seen its share of troubles.
The building is owned by Rochester Office Park Ltd., a Manhattan-based partnership headed by developer and real estate investor Richard Cohen. But it has been controlled for some two years by mortgage holder Sanwa Bank of Japan.
During roughly the same period, Marine Midland Bank, which leases 215,000 square feet in Marine Midland Plaza, downsized Rochester operations. That left several floors vacant.
Bank officials declined to say how much space Marine Midland takes up in the building or how much is vacant, but real estate industry sources say as many as six floors leased to Marine Midland Bank are unoccupied.
The building also is said to need substantial repairs including work on its underground parking garage.
Hartwig said the garage is only in partial use, but declined to speak further on the building’s state of repair.
Marine Midland Plaza was built in 1969 by Tishman Realty & Construction Co. of New York City. In the 1970s, Tishman Realty sold it to the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America, also of New York, which sold it to Rochester Office Park in the late 1980s.
New ownership now would mean a quantum leap forward for Rochester’s downtown and Marine Midland Plaza, said John Manilla, president of Pyramid Brokerage Co. of Rochester Inc.
He praised Benderson Development as a turnaround specialist that would provide exactly the medicine the ailing building needs.
“This will send the right message to the marketplace,” Manilla said. “With competitive leasing rates, the market should respond.”
A revived Marine Midland Plaza would combine with other recent positive developments in the area–including the Bausch & Lomb Inc. headquarters project on South Clinton Avenue and the recent lease-up of One City Center–to create an improved “gateway” to downtown, he said.
Xerox Corp. has leased 80,000 square feet in One City Center to house its information management division. The Xerox lease will fill the Chestnut Street building adjacent to Marine Midland Plaza.
Jamie Lamb, president of Crosman Associates Inc., said Benderson Development’s acquisition of Marine Midland Plaza would bode well for the building.
Benderson Development is a 200-employee firm controlling some 20 million square feet of commercial properties in 20 states, Robinson said.
In recent years, it has concentrated on strip malls, specializing in turnarounds of distressed properties. However, it has done office-building turnarounds since the 1970s.
Over the past three years, Benderson Development has acquired and renovated ailing strip malls in Henrietta and Penfield, and turned the Greece site of a former Present Co. warehouse into retail space. As the Rochester Business Journal reported last week, it also recently purchased land in Penfield on which it plans to build and own the structure housing one of three planned Rochester-area Home Depot Inc. stores.
Marine Midland Plaza has been a tough sell in the last few years, Lamb said, but “(Benderson Development) has shown an ability to hit the market. I’m sure they anticipate a substantial investment, but the dollars will be very strategically placed.
“This is a firm that knows what it’s doing.”

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