I wrote the Decade of Progress post prior to the passing of Mark Croce. This weekend I reconsidered, but decided against, adding Statler City to the list of ten. Mark’s purchase of the property in March 2011 was a bold move. More-experienced local developers stood on the sidelines as the landmark was in receivership and threatened with demolition. Getting it back into local hands was instrumental in securing its future. That in and of itself was a ‘win.’
Croce planned a phased reuse of the building (see next post), starting with shoring up the exterior, replacing seven lower level roof areas, rebuilding the exterior parapet wall facing the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center, and remodeling and re-opening the lower three public levels for restaurant and event use. He carried it out according to plan. That’s significant for downtown and the region. But Mark considered Statler City a work in progress- far from complete.
From the beginning, he said he would bring on development partners to tackle the remainder of the building. He talked to several potential partners over the years but never found the right team that shared his passion and expectations for the property. Last year, exterior repair and restoration was started on the building’s lower floors, work meant to improve its appearance and further setting the stage for complete redevelopment of the complex. Let’s all push for Mark’s vision to become reality in the coming years, just as he planned, to put the building on this upcoming decade’s list.
A case can be made for naming Mark Croce ‘Developer of the Decade.’ Besides his purchase and redevelopment work at the Statler, his long-time goal of converting 204 Franklin Street into a hotel was realized with the 2017 opening of The Curtiss. Next door, the finishing touches are being put on conversion of the C.W. Miller Livery Stable as a second Emerson School of Hospitality. Croce’s Buffalo Development Corporation partnered with McGuire Development on the effort, and wouldn’t it be fitting if it was named the ‘Mark D. Croce Emerson School of Hospitality?’
Croce was key to bringing Dinosaur Bar-B-Que to Franklin Street where he owned several buildings and parking lots. He advocated for expanding the convention center in place with a connection to the Statler. Last year he hinted about plans to build a second downtown hotel. Few local developers, most with sizeable staffs and much larger portfolios, have had as big of an impact on downtown than Mark. His passion for Buffalo was only surpassed by that for his family. He left a big void in many lives, and left Buffalo a much better place.
Emerson/Curtiss photo by Leo Abbott