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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- One Seneca Tower, formerly the HSBC Tower, is currently 95 percent empty and in foreclosure.

But one local real estate expert sees a high-end transformation to the tallest building in Buffalo.

Peter Hunt, chairman and CEO of Hunt Realty, agrees with most experts that "mixed-use" is the best approach for the building's future. That means a combination of office space, retail, residential and a hotel.

However, he thinks mid-level tenants would lead to further stagnation in Downtown Buffalo. Instead, he would like to see a 5-star hotel like a Ritz Carlton, luxury retail like Bloomingdale's and Tiffany and Co., and high-end lofts on the upper floors, where the views are unmatched anywhere in Upstate New York.

"We do not have a 5-star hotel," Hunt said. "We have excellent shopping. People flock here from Canada. (But) we don't have the high-end retailers."

Hunt's idea of a high-end solution to the tower's vacancy was first reported in the Buffalo News.

He sat down with 2 On Your Side to discuss why luxury is the solution. Before you say high-end businesses wouldn't be interested in Buffalo -- designated as one of the poorest cities in America -- Hunt points to other Rust Belt cities.

"They said the same thing about Cleveland," he explained. "And probably the most successful hotel in Cleveland's history is the Ritz Carlton."

Cost will be a concern. Conservative estimates put the cost of the building, including needed infrastructure improvements, over $100 million.

Right now, the building is in foreclosure. Richard Schechter, court-appointed Receiver for the tower, said the process is moving forward. It could take anywhere from a few months to more than a year. However, if the right buyer with the right offer comes along, you could see progress very soon.

Hunt knows this one building will not change the world, but he says the potential is there to change the perception of the entire city.

'This is a huge opportunity for Western New York," Hunt said. "It will help to change our perception of ourselves and the world's perception of this community."

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