A site with a mix of parking lots and buildings but close to existing hotels, or a site in the Cobblestone District, undeveloped but in a tourist and entertainment district. Those are the options a consultant lays out for either expanding the existing convention center on Franklin Street or abandoning the behemoth and building a new one at the foot of Main Street.
The study by HVS Consulting will be released later today but The Buffalo News received a sneak peek:
Option 1: Expand the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center between Franklin Street and Delaware Avenue. This option envisions renovating the existing convention center, expanding it into what is now the rear part of the Statler building across the street and taking over the entire block north of the Statler. Sky bridges would connect the parcels. The preliminary cost estimate: $350 million to $429 million.
Option 2: Build one large and contiguous convention center at the HSBC site between Washington Street and Michigan Avenue. This option calls for constructing a convention center from scratch near Canalside on land currently used as paved parking by HSBC and The Buffalo News near KeyBank Center. The preliminary cost estimate: $329 million to $368 million.
The county hired HVS Consulting last year for $150,000 to conduct the feasibility study. The Chicago consulting firm specializes in convention, sports and entertainment complex projects.
HVS Consulting is recommending the convention center’s usuable space double in size to bring the facility roughly on par with peer cities. Seven sites were originally considered before whittling the options down to renovate and expand or replacement on a new site. The study is the latest in a long string of proposals and ideas on what to do with the facility that opened in 1978. It has been decried as ugly, life-sucking, inadequate, undersized, and to some, unneeded almost since it opened.