Today marks another big day for Buffalo. At 12:30pm, a groundbreaking was held for the first phase of the Richardson-Olmsted Complex construction project. A hoard of politicians and Richardson-Olmsted project drivers gathered together to announce that the monumental development project was finally underway (see project here).
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Today marks the beginning of a new era for the historic Richardson Olmsted Complex. I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for his continued commitment to Buffalo. The redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Complex will create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs and provide significant annual economic benefits, continuing the positive momentum that has resulted in over $4.5 billion in new economic development activity in our city.”
At the end of the ceremony, three waves of official types grabbed shovels and officially broke ground on the $69 million adaptive reuse project, signaling that work is to now begin on creating a hospitality venue outfitted with an 88 room hotel and restaurant, a 300-plus seat conference and event center, and an architecture center for Buffalo (in the three main buildings). On October 27, there will be another major announcement concerning the hotel, which is slated to open in two years time.
The Mansion Group Partner Diana Principe said, “Through our lease, we are resolute to ignite a larger than life hotel and conference center experience within this National Historic Landmark and contribute to Buffalo-Niagara’s economic vitality. Jobs, tourism and attractions emanating from this hotel facility will preserve this community jewel, for the nation to discover and experience, for decades to come.”
The groundbreaking follows previous investments into the complex that include new landscaping and a roadway, along with stabilization work to the 500,000 square feet of buildings (to the tune of $10 million). This project is said to be one of the most ambitious rehab projects that this country has seen, and joins myriad other major construction projects underway in Buffalo.
Not forgetting the impact that the enormous vacant and crumbling structure has had on surrounding neighborhoods, assemblyman Sean Ryan stated that the project can be seen as a link between the health of the complex and the West Side of the city. For years the West Side struggled, as did this enormous potential anchor. Now, with the support of the community, along with state and federal funds, a solid vision is unfolding that will greatly impact Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo State, the nearby museums and galleries, Grant Street, and West Side residential streets.
It is anticipated that when the project is complete, the hospitality venue will have created upwards of 75 jobs. Not to mention the annual room night sales totaling $3.3 million ($451,185 in sales or occupancy tax revenue). It is also anticipated that hotel and conference guests will contribute another $3,678,000 in direct sales during their stay at the complex ($321,825 in annual sales tax revenues).
Team leaders on the project include Buffalo development rock star and Richardson-Olmsted board president Howard Zemsky who gave accolades to board chairman Stan Lipsey as an esteemed and passionate proponent of the endeavor in his opening remarks. Zemsky also noted that Executive Director of the Richardson Center Corporation, Monica Pellegrino Faix, should be commended. For years leading up to the groundbreaking, Pellegrino Faix was essentially a “Team of One” that helped to orchestrate the formations of the development project. In fact, she was the only employee for a period of six years.
Flynn Battaglia Architects Principal Peter Flynn said, “It is an honor and distinct pleasure to lead the design team commissioned to develop a new Hotel and Conference center for this Buffalo architectural treasure. The interior beauty of a long hidden space, designed by HH Richardson, one of the fathers of American architecture, will be revealed and restored and a Frederick Law Olmsted landscape that has been lost will be recreated. The significance of HH Richardson’s public architecture at the time the Center was designed brought national attention to public health through the appreciation of an iconic public building which brought respect to the profession of architecture as well. This project will once again focus public interest and bring renewed respect to the historic resources on the site.”
Deborah Berke Partners Founding Partner Deborah Berke said, “The extraordinary Richardson Olmsted Complex is a stunning place and it is an honor to be part of the team that is bringing new life to it. With the start of construction we can celebrate several years of design work actually becoming real. As an architect I love making old buildings relevant to today’s world, and I believe our thoughtful and inventive adaptation will revitalize Richardson’s 19th century masterpiece with a 21st century spirit.”
Design team: Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo and design architect Deborah Berke Partners of New York. Additional members of the team include Boston-based historic preservation firm Goody Clancy; Andropogon Associates, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm; and LP Ciminelli, a construction management firm from Buffalo. The Hotel, Conference & Event Center leaseholder is an affiliate of The Mansion Group and INNVest Lodging Services, headquartered in Buffalo.
List of speakers at the ceremony:
Howard Zemsky, President, Richardson Center Corporation
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy
Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown
Senator Mark Grisanti
Assemblyman Sean Ryan
Stephen Brockman, Principal, Deborah Berke Partners
Dennis Murphy, President and CEO, INNVest Lodging Services