Efforts continue to redevelop Statler City on a step-by-step basis. Developer Mark D. Croce talked with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer about the revitalization effort and discussed new policies to make sure that this year’s Ice Ball on New Year’s Eve doesn’t encounter the problems that plagued last year’s event.
Here is a summary of some of the points made in an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. Watch the full six-minute interview at www.buffalonews.com/video.
Meyer: It was about a year and a half ago that we heard about phased-in plans to breathe new life into what was then a vacant eyesore in the heart of downtown Buffalo.
Croce: We knew we would have to take a phased-in approach, because everybody else was looking at this grand approach of trying to do 19 floors all at the same time. And it was financially and physically impossible. So what we decided to do was first stabilize the property so that it was no longer a public threat. Second, open the property again to the public so that we had a revenue stream to make the building self-supporting. We raced against the clock to do that ... Right around [last] Thanksgiving, we had a number of large events. Our goal was to get it open for New Year’s and open it and reintroduce it to the public. We’ve done continuous work over the last year, improving the property, improving the individual ballrooms, improving the public spaces.
Meyer: Do you have optimism that you’re going to be able to revitalize those upper floors? They would seem to be the Achilles’ heel in any development plan.
Croce: We’ve now made the building water-tight. We fixed the parapet walls, fixed the public safety issues so we could remove all the barricades and fences. We’re still working with the city and the state on the $5.3 million grant so that we can work on the facade – the external terra cotta, some of that infrastructure. So you’re going to start to see the curb appeal really come alive. [We’ll] redo all those storefronts ... I’m very optimistic. This building used to be 100 percent occupied. It’s the primest piece of real estate in all of downtown Buffalo ... So I’m very optimistic that you will see life in the upper floors, and at some point the building will be 100 percent reoccupied.
Meyer: You mentioned New Year’s Eve. Last year, you held the first annual Ice Ball here. You ran into some big problems.
Croce: We did. We had too many people ... We were over-ambitious. So we decided this year to cut it way back. One of the issues last year was that people that didn’t get a VIP table but had a general admission ticket still thought that they were going to get a seat or a table somewhere. They didn’t understand the difference between general admission and reserved seating. So this year, we’re only doing reserved seating. We’ve cut the capacity way back to 1,500 people, which is going to be in all the ballrooms ... Rendezvous, we’re going to run [it] separate and open that to the public and have a separate ticket price for that. So if people just want to do the nightclub thing, they can just go to Rendezvous.