Plans for an extensive make-over of the AM&A’s Department Store took a step forward today after the Planning Board gave a favorable review of the project. The board is still looking into outstanding SEQR issues and comments to be addressed. Before ending the meeting, there was a signal made that the project would be approved at an upcoming meeting.
Queens-based Lanco H & L purchased the long-dormant property in November for $2.755 million. The firm, working with engineer John Schenne and backed by Chinese investors, is planning hotel, residential, health care, and restaurant space in the 350,000 sq.ft. building. The Planning Board tabled the project two weeks ago after raising concerns over bus unloading and parking.
Plans call for 300 hotel rooms on the second through eighth floors and six apartments on the top two levels. To make the large floors conducive to a hotel layout, an atrium will be cut into the middle of the building. The hotel lobby along with a restaurant, bar, and retail space will occupy the ground floor and a spa will be located in the basement.
The developers will be using their ties to China and their existing tour business in New York City to fill the rooms. Chinese tourists visiting New York City would be brought to Buffalo for two or three days while they visit Niagara Falls and regional attractions. While they are here, medical services such as a dental clinic, blood work, and MRI and CT scans would be offered on the second floor, services they may find hard to obtain at home.
The building has been vacant since 1999 and was last fully occupied in 1995 when Bon Ton shuttered its store there. Lanco H & L is planning to spend $50 to $60 million on the building’s makeover, wants to start work this summer, and have the project complete by the end of 2016. The project will be privately financed but the owners may be utilizing historic preservation tax credits to assist with the effort.