According to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, the beauty of the move to have the Statler listed on the Endangered Historic Places list lies in the fact that the designation will put the Statler on the national radar for any saviors who may be waiting in the wings. If the third time is the charm, the Statler is due for its white knight, following false starts by Bashar Issa and William Koessler.
Developer Uri Kaufman has already shown interest, and has a bid on the table for an undisclosed amount, along with what he termed “a lovely letter from Mayor Brown” offering to be helpful, but Hoyt says the more interested developers, the merrier.
“We’ve done this sort of thing before,” Kaufman says of himself and his partners. “We have a groundbreaking coming up on February 1st of the Lofts at Harmony Mills, a half-million square foot building we’re converting into luxury residential. We’ve also done projects in Long Island, Connecticut, Saratoga.” Kaufman says it would take a combination of private dollars and public funds, but that he and his partners have the wherewithal to get the job done.
Hoyt, who has spoken to Kaufman several times and met with him once says that Kaufman is one potential answer, but that it doesn’t hurt to have competition for a development of this magnitude. “It doesn’t hurt to [have choices],” Hoyt says, and he hopes others come forward.
Local developer Rocco Termini has shown interest in redevelopment of the Statler, but on the contingency the that the University at Buffalo’s School of Law would become a tenant.
As for the possibility of UB working the Statler into their plans as a new home for their law school, as suggested by Congressman Brian Higgins, Hoyt says he doesn’t believe it’s the role of government to dictate or even suggest that UB has to be part of the solution to save the Statler.
“If UB determines that it would be in the best interest of the students, the law school, the university as a whole – great,” Hoyt says. “But UB has to decide if this is consistent with their mission, and I wouldn’t use my influence to bully them into making that decision.”
Hoyt goes on to say, “We’ve already developed UB 2020 as a plan – and plans can be changed – but it would be up to UB to reconsider after a closer look.” As for the impact to South Campus, where the law school is slated to move once the medical schools are rooted in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Hoyt says the plan as it stands for South Campus makes sense.
“UB’s plan for South Campus centralizes that campus and promises to increase the census in the area, which will be very good for University Heights,” Hoyt says.
Executive Director of the Baird Foundation and Preservation Buffalo Niagara Chair Catherine Schweitzer would like nothing more than to save the Statler, and she’s confident that if the project is right for UB, they will come to the table. She also recognizes the competitive nature in appropriating grant money and tax credits and, like Hoyt, is happy for the doors that will open through an Endangered Places designation. She is hopeful, saying, “At this time, we have Governor Paterson and many state and federal representatives unified behind the nomination.”
There are those who worry about the ill effects of the heat being shut off in the building during the winter months, but until someone comes forward to tackle those enormous daily bills, the Statler sits and waits for help on the horizon.
Image: Joseph Verastro