In less than two weeks, the Brown Administration expects to decide which development team will be given rights to build on the City-owned Webster Block. Ellicott Development and Castle Mosey are proposing a project consisting of a 140-room hotel, 42 apartments, 110,250 sq.ft. of office space, 8,600 sq.ft. of retail space and parking for 1,089 cars.
The Sabres owner Terry Pegula is proposing a complex that includes a larger, 200-room hotel, retail and restaurant space, a 965-car parking ramp, and a two-rink hockey facility that will be available for public use, skate clubs, hockey tournaments and other events.
According to the Request for Proposals issued by the City earlier this year, the following criteria are being used to evaluate the submissions:
1. Completeness of the Application Proposal
2. Experience and Qualifications
3. Consistency with Local Plans
4. Community Impact
5. Creative Design
6. MBE/WBE Participation
7. Project Budget
8. Cost Effectiveness
9. Project Readiness
10. Land Purchase Price [Sabres are offering $500,000, Ellicott $1.5 million according to The Buffalo News]
The preliminary designs are similar in mass and scale but the Sabres' project is twice the cost, $123 million vs $64 million for the Ellicott proposal. Ellicott Development has more experience in real estate development but Terry Pegula and the Sabres organization has also proven they get things done.
Main Rink in Sabres' Proposal
One of the largest differences between the proposals is the ice rinks. The rinks will draw visitors and outside dollars to the inner harbor, adding activity and creating demand for hotel rooms. The Ellicott proposal brings office workers and residents to the inner harbor, but there will be minimal net gain to downtown unless the office space draws a suburban or out-of-town tenants.
Both proposals are seeking public sector help with their proposals. The RFP required the identification of "any proposed or anticipated public funding requests including any request for infrastructure improvements, property tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions on building materials, and PILOT [Payment In Lieu Of Tax] Agreements."
Ellicott Development's Proposal- from Scott Street
Many have questioned why development on such a "prime location" would require any subsidy at all. Ellicott Development's Carl Paladino threatened to sue over Mayor Brown's commitment of $5 million in State money for exterior repairs to the Statler (none of which has been delivered to date), yet Ellicott is seeking assistance for this project in the form of a PILOT and browfield tax credits. The Sabres are proposing an expensive, vertical hockey complex that might be cheaper to build on larger sites nearby such as the surface lots along Mississippi Street. The Sabres are said to be seeking "less than $2 million" for soft costs and utility/infrastructure work.
From 'whatever' on the post from earlier this week:
I know this won't happen realistically, but I'd like to see the city reject both for now and issue a new RFP with a 6 month time frame but stipulating that there will be zero public subsidy.
Why should there have to be any? It's a good location, doesn't have any old building needing rehab, doesn't have any pollution cleanup issues...
Maybe a second RFP process would result in improved bids from either Pegula or Paladino which don't assume taxpayer subsidies, or maybe some other developer who didn't submit a plan this time would the next time. Worth a try.
It will be an interesting decision on this critical downtown/waterfront block.