Despite not having lined up public sector assistance to stabilize the Statler, Mark Croce is moving forward with purchasing the landmark building. If the City Council and Erie County Legislature approve waivers against the estate, Croce could own the building as soon as March. Croce has decided against a proposal that would have seen the City take title to the property and designate his Statler City LLC as preferred developer.
"This is a significant step forward," Croce said after a Thursday bankruptcy court hearing. "We'll continue fighting for money to stabilize the building. We want to get moving on this."
Statler City is working with the City and other parties to waive claims against the estate that have been piling up since the property was pushed into bankruptcy one year ago. Those costs include city and county taxes, fees, penalties, water and sewer charges, interest and administrative claims. The City and County are being asked to waive penalties and interest on the back real property taxes. Constitutional limitations prevent the relieving of property tax liens. Statler City will be paying back taxes as part of its purchase agreement.
"Once the City Council and Erie County Legislature sign-off on the waivers, we'll schedule a closing for 30 days," said Croce. Without the waivers, the purchase agreement is in jeopardy and the bankruptcy court trustee could move to abandon the building.
Statler City's plan includes:
- Public funding to secure the exterior, repair the roofs and right size the utilities. The work, estimated to cost $5.3 million, will prevent further deterioration.
- Renovation of the lower floors and mezzanine for banquet, restaurant and retail uses. That would bring cash flow that can be used to pay the operating expenses of the building pending more extensive future development. Statler City expects to invest $2 to $3 million on lower floor redevelopment.
- Allow reuse of the upper floors as market conditions allow. A mix of hotel rooms, rental units and condos are likely.
- As part of a longer-term revitalization, connect the building to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center either physically or operationally.
Croce wants to have the protective fencing removed and the building's lower floors ready to host events associated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in October.
"I'm optimistic," he says. "There's still a lot of work to do."