By James Fink  |  Buffalo Business First  |  Fri, 11 Dec 2020 06:00:00 EST

Click here for a video clip on the Buffalo Business First website.

Douglas Jemal turned Buffalo’s development world upside, and it all started with Blake Shelton

In 2016, the Washington, D.C.-based developer was in Rochester selling a property when he heard about Shelton’s concert at KeyBank Center.

Walking into the concert, he saw the vacant, 38-story Seneca One Tower and was intrigued. A few months later, he bought it for $12.6 million.

With that deal, Jemal began his development charge through the region.

“Seneca One was a huge game-changer,” said Adam Walters, Phillips Lytle LLP partner. “The building had been vacant four years when Douglas came along. Without him, it could have sat vacant for 40 years.”

Seneca One

A view of Seneca One. (JOE VIERA)

Jemal in the last four years has acquired the former Buffalo Police headquarters and Statler City downtown and the Boulevard Mall in Amherst, bought two Nottingham Terrace homes (and sold one), a former Buffalo firehouse, a vacant Black Rock warehouse and announced plans to build a nine-story, apartment development next to Seneca One Tower.

The cost of all of those totaled $66 million, and his investments in them is expected to near $500 million.

Central to it all is the $150 million he has invested to restore Seneca One Tower, the former headquarters for Marine Midland Bank.

The building’s resurrection started with M&T Bank’s lease for 11 floors for its IT hub. There are also 115 apartments, which will be leased by spring, and building out ground floor space for retail and restaurant. He added 200,000 square feet to the 1-million-square foot building.

“The tower was a magnificent canvas to work with,” Jemal said. “What we’ve done really speaks for itself.”