Western New York and the development community are mourning the passing of developer and restaurateur Mark Croce. One of the city’s most prolific developers was killed in a helicopter crash in Pennsylvania last night. Mark Croce, who loved to fly, and his passenger Michael Capriotto, perished in the crash. The accident is almost unfathomable, as Croce led a life that is hard to comprehend – the guy took the bull by the horns on every project that he ever worked on, and was an inspiration to so many people who watched as he built his real estate empire in Buffalo.
Croce, 58, was also known for his restaurant ventures, from The Bucking Buffalo to Buffalo Chop House. For those that knew Croce, it was his way or the highway and he pulled no punches. He might have drawn some criticism about his ability to restore the Statler from top-to-bottom, but he always said that he was waiting for the right business partner to move forward with restoration of the landmark’s upper floors. He would also happily remind anyone who asked about the progress of Statler City, that he was working on various other important projects, building up to “The Big One”. And he was not kidding around – his projects such as The Curtiss Hotel and the second Emerson School of Hospitality (currently underway) stand as a testament to his ability to get the job done. He even talked about near-term plans to build a second hotel downtown.
Croce might have been a controversial figure in Buffalo, but he was also a leader in the space, and will always be remembered for his significant contributions, most of which he funded himself. He solidified Chippewa Street as an entertainment destination and became one of downtown’s largest property owners and advocates. Mark and his family lived in Orchard Park, but his heart was in Buffalo.
From this day forward, the Buffalo real estate landscape will be different. It will look different and it will act different. Croce had a hand at a high-risk table, where it was difficult to attract other players. The guy was a rock, literally and figuratively. Buffalo has suffered a major loss at this time, which is unfortunate – Croce was a scrappy fighter and a visionary… he reveled in taking on the big projects, and other developers. He forced everyone to up their game. It’s going to be hard to fill his shoes, that is for certain.