Jemal Lands Mohawk Ramp, Adds to Momentum on Ellicott

Douglas Jemal and Douglas Development was selected to redevelop the Mohawk Parking Ramp earlier this week.

Photo: Buffalo Rising

It’s hardly a surprising decision given Jemal’s track record in the city. But it’s still comes with a sliver of disappointment, as we’ll be missing out on the plan pitched by Passero Associates, SAA EVI and McGuire Development. Their plan, which I wrote about here, felt like the best of the three finalists for the property. It was a unique plan that offered something of a big-city vibe. It would’ve added some height to that section of downtown and just generally looked really cool.

Designating Jemal as the developer of the Mohawk Ramp isn’t a bad thing, of course. The pace at which his projects move is warp speed when compared to other local developers. He’s proven that he has the skill and resources to make the Mohawk Ramp redevelopment and impressive addition to downtown.

Awarding the Mohawk Ramp to Jemal also creates synergy with his very impressive plans for the Simon Electric properties. Jemal was on record saying he was doing the Simon properties with or without the ramp, but if awarding him the ramp helps push the various phases of the Simon project forward, it will be a net win.

Perhaps the combine inertia of the two development plans will move up the phased development Jemal initially pitched for the Mohawk garage.

We’ve seen Jemal’s penchant for shifting plans to better fit his overall vision. Namely with the Seneca One redevelopment. Could we see him jump right to phase two of the phased development plans initially released for Huron and Ellicott Streets?

It’s refreshing to know that even if the most attractive development option wasn’t selected for a downtown parcel that we can have confidence in what’s to come. What Jemal’s plan may be lacking curb appeal will certainly be made up for in the time it takes to reach the finish line.

It’s also unfair of me to paint the Jemal project in such an unflattering light. The Douglas plan is a good one. The city was in a difficult spot as they were presented with a number of projects which were deserving of praise. The building that’s to replace the Mohawk Ramp may not have the vertical height as the others, but it’s still going to look great. The lead image on this Buffalo Risingpost shows the initial rendering for a building that will be at home in downtown Buffalo. At least in this image, the garage portion is obscured, the brick exterior fits the surrounding area and the street level retail and restaurants will be a welcome addition to that strip. If this looks even half as good as Douglas’ Brookland Press project in DC, it will be an excellent addition to downtown.

There’s even some expectation that the Gold Wynn will still seek to build the glass tower they pitched for the site. It would be unfair to assume that Passero, EVI SAA and McGuire would follow suit with their project, but it would certainly be a welcome and exciting decision. The wake of this decision could bring about more exciting projects that fill in some of the gaps downtown.

The momentum along Ellicott really puts the phrase of a rising tide lifting all boats to the test. We are too far away from upwards of seven newly renovated buildings coming on line along a strip of the city which already includes Big Ditch, Tappo and is just around the corner from the Theater District and Roosevelt Square.

It’s exciting news, even if the plan wasn’t my absolute favorite of the bunch.

Ellicott Street at the Center of Two Incredible Projects

Development posts used to be far more frequent on this space in past years but I’ve lagged in my coverage as other responsibilities took precedence over complaining about the hole at Canalside, for example.

But in an effort to commit to providing insight and attention to the various projects happening around the city, I’m going to try and get back in the saddle of writing about Buffalo development. Plenty has gone on in the last few months and I’ll have to work to catch up on the latest in the Skyway debate, Douglas Jemal’s continued work in the city and the decades long development of Canalside.

Photo: Buffalo Rising/Douglas Development

This week saw progress with the City’s efforts to redevelop the Mohawk Ramp that sits between Washington and Ellicott streets. All six proposals initially submitted were quite impressive and the proposal that may have been the sexiest of the group didn’t even make it as a finalist. That the Wynn Group is still aiming to build that glass tower elsewhere in the city is exciting news in its own right.

I’d imagine that the proposal from Douglas Development has first position as the city evaluates the three finalists. Jemal’s track record since he arrived has been nothing short of astonishing and he’s worked on timelines which would have been unheard of in the past. The partnership he has with the city and his willingness to go fast on projects has to give him a leg up on this process. He’s also slated to redevelop the Simon Electric properties right down the block. So I won’t be surprised if he’s the winner here.

The thing is that Douglas Development probably shouldn’t win this bid. Douglas’ overall proposal for Ellicott street is tremendous. As a sucker for renderings, their proposal for that space has me over the moon for what that project can mean for this stretch of Ellicott and Huron.

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