The Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) approved the last piece of the financing puzzle necessary to redevelop the Curtiss Building at 210 Franklin Street into an upscale boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant.
The circa-1912 building will contain 67 hotel rooms, an apartment, a full-service three-meal restaurant, high-end finishes, and a rooftop patio bar. The ground floor restaurant and lounge will feature a revolving bar modeled after the former Chez Ami restaurant and bar that was located on Delaware Avenue.
“I have a funding gap on the Curtiss project and have worked with the ECIDA to get the project moving,” says project developer Mark D. Croce.
Croce had started work to gut the Curtiss but put the project on hold after buying and renovating the first three floors of the former Statler Towers, now known as Statler City into a highly successful wedding and special event destination property. The down economy also delayed the original redevelopment plan.
This marks the first time that this developer has ever sought ECIDA assistance on any of his downtown projects. The ECIDA does not generally provide inducements for retail, restaurant, bar, and hotel type developments but does encourage reuse of vacant and historic properties under its adaptive reuse policy.
Croce worked with the ECIDA and local leaders to obtain sales tax and mortgage tax exemptions for the Curtiss project. The project is in a census tract considered “highly distressed” and can qualify for IDA financial assistance as a retail project conditioned upon County Executive consent since it met the criteria as an adaptive reuse project. A PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement for this project was not sought.
“Without the support of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, this project wouldn’t be happening at this time,” said Croce. “The Curtiss project also has the strong support of Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen, Dottie Gallagher-Cohen from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Brenda McDuffie from the Buffalo Urban League, along with all local labor officials.”
Croce has set an enhanced goal of 30 percent of the construction work that is being funded with city assistance to go to minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBE), exceeding the typical goal of 20 percent. There will be a M/WBE contractor workshop to be held on July 15th at Statler City from 9am until noon to help get local M/WBE businesses in touch with the project and to help educate other non-certified contractors on the certification process. Croce also intends to have an inclusive and diverse workforce at the property which is expected to create a minimum of 30 new full time jobs and has been the first local hotel project to sign a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) that allows hotel workers to unionize if they desire to.
This is Croce’s first project that the ECIDA has assisted on. The $685,000 in sales and mortgage tax breaks will help fill a $1.2 million funding gap in what is expected to be have an overall $18.1 million project budget.
The sales tax exemption allows a project proponent to acquire equipment, materials and services needed to acquire, construct, reconstruct and/or equip a project without having to pay state or local sales taxes. The local taxing entity agrees to forgo this future revenue to induce a development project.
Croce expects additional demolition work to start the second week of July and full construction to begin in August. The goal is to have the hotel open by next summer but a fall opening is more likely he says.
Young + Wright Architects designed the project and R&P Oakhill Development will manage the construction.
Croce expects to have two other projects underway this year: a $500,000 interior renovation of the 12+ year old Buffalo Chophouse restaurant on Franklin Street, recently named Buffalo’s best steakhouse in ArtVoice’s Best-of Buffalo awards, and the adaptive reuse of the former Saturn Rings building at 505 Pearl Street. Croce is working with architecture, engineering, and interior design firm Carmina Wood Morris to turn the Pearl Street building into a mix of commercial and residential space. He’s also working on plans to redevelop the C.W. Miller Livery Stable (aka Hertz Garage) on W. Huron Street next to the Curtis.
State funding to help restore the exterior facade and storefronts of Statler City is nearly finalized. The $5.3 million will be used for exterior repairs and restoration and has been in the works for nearly three years. That work will allow for the removal of the sidewalk scaffolding and lay the groundwork for the highly anticipated upper floor reuse.