With State funding to help restore the exterior of Statler City nearly finalized, work will be starting today. The $5.3 million is being used for exterior repairs and restoration and has been in the works for almost three years. The money is being drawn from a $15 million discretionary allocation given to the City several years ago that was earmarked for economic development projects. The City and State both needed to sign-off on the funding package.
“The grant distribution agreement has been approved by the State and is being reviewed by the City,” says owner Mark Croce. “With approval imminent, we are beginning public safety and exterior improvements to the property.”
Crews will be using a swing station to begin surveying the building’s brick and terra cotta exterior today.
In January 2010, the Statler officially closed after entering bankruptcy. Subsequently, the City closed adjacent sidewalks due to falling façade debris. In August 2010, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court accepted the bid from Croce’s Statler City LLC, which acquired the building on March 15, 2011 and immediately began building stabilization and lower level interior renovations. The lobby and ballrooms were reopened on December 31, 2011 with a New Year’s Eve Gala.
The project involves interior and exterior renovations including roof replacement, masonry restoration and stabilization, asbestos abatement, interior demolition and reconstruction, entrance and canopy restoration, and related soft costs.
Photo above- taken today and posted on Statler City Facebook page.
The $5.3 million is an award to the City which is allocating it to the Statler City project. Planned work will make the 750,000 sq.ft. building more viable and marketable. It will be the first public money put into the Statler. Croce must complete the exterior work and then apply for reimbursement.
“When I purchased the property I committed $6 million to stabilize the building and redevelop the lower levels of the building,” says Croce. “I’ve exceeded that. The State money will allow for further reuse of the building. It helps us take care of long-time building issues such as damaged terra cotta, faulty roofs, and masonry repair.”
It is an investment in the property and is about half the cost the City might have had to spend on demolition if the building was abandoned.
“I saved the building from abandonment and demolition,” says Croce. “No other viable bidders stepped forward.”
“My plan from the onset was to stabilize the building and reuse the grand spaces on the lower levels,” he adds. “Reuse of the upper floors will be done in phases and will require a great deal of money and vision. I plan to work with other developers to add residential, hotel, and other uses to the building.”
Croce says he has been approached by developers from Syracuse and Boston interested in Statler City but has yet to find a proper fit. He believes the building is so large a combination of strategic development partners will be necessary to refill the building.
“We think the building has a promising future,” says Croce. “What would have been an eyesore and embarrassment on Niagara Square has life in it. The State money is going to allow us to bring additional investment to the property. I like to say that we will have a drywall ready development site when the exterior work is wrapped up.”
Croce says once exterior masonry repairs are made, the sidewalk scaffolding will be removed.
At the same time, Croce has abatement and demolition contractors mobilizing at the Curtiss Hotel site at Franklin and W. Huron streets.
The circa- 1912 building will contain 68 hotel rooms, 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.
Croce had started work gutting the Curtiss but put the project on hold after buying the Statler. The down economy also delayed the plan.
Sales tax and mortgage tax exemptions for the Curtiss project were obtained from the ECIDA earlier this year. Croce expects work at the historic building to proceed quickly and wants to have the hotel open next summer. In just two weeks, the Curtiss Hotel Facebook page has over 900 likes.
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 $300,000 interior remodeling of the 12-year old Buffalo Chop House on Franklin Street, named Buffalo’s best steakhouse in ArtVoice’s best-of awards, and the reuse of the 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.