Carl Paladino's plan for a hotel, apartments and office space on the waterfront that was passed over six months ago has been brought back to life by Mayor Byron W. Brown.
Paladino and his business partners will construct a 14-story complex hosting a hotel, apartments, office space, spa, pool, banquet facilities and two restaurants on a prime piece of land owned by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, Brown said Friday during his State of the City address.
Principals with Ellicott Development and Mosey-Castle Interests had bid to develop the Webster Block last year, but lost out to the Buffalo Sabres and team owner Terry Pegula.
The new concept, a $75 million development slated for a parking lot next to Templeton Landing at the Erie Basin Marina, has elements of what the group had proposed, Paladino said.
“They wanted both projects,” Paladino said after Brown's speech at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. “We worked out a deal for what we feel now is a better piece of land. It's a better location for what we want to do, the best downtown location for that type of project.”
The 574,298-square-foot project, dubbed “The Carlo,” will include 100,000 square feet of office space; a 138-room hotel; 32 apartment units; a 5,000-square-foot spa and fitness facility; a pool; a 8,600-square-foot banquet facility adjacent to a green roof; two restaurants, including one on the roof; a 602-space parking ramp and 40 spaces of surface parking.
A second phase of the project will feature one- and two-story buildings for retail and commercial use along the water's edge.
The development will be located on 5.5 acres between Erie Street, Wilkeson Way and Templeton Terrace.
Paladino said he is working with a potential office tenant but declined to identify it.
Word of the deal came as a surprise to the crowd at the convention center, but Brown said he thinks it will be approved in City Hall because of Paladino's Webster Block proposal.
“I feel very confident based on the fact that this project has been vetted significantly in public, and there's been a great deal of public process, that it will be able to move successfully through all of the other approvals that will be required,” Brown said.
Common Council President Richard A. Fontana, who sits on the board of the Urban Renewal Agency, said he hadn't heard about the new project plans before the speech, but that they sounded exciting.
“We want to make sure there's enough market for these hotels,” Fontana said.
The city's urban renewal agency can designate a developer for the site without putting it out to bid, Brown said.
“We are fast-tracking economic development in the city of Buffalo,” Brown said. “This is our time in Buffalo, and we're going to capitalize on the time we're in right now.”
The project will need the support of the Urban Renewal Agency's board, which is controlled by mayoral appointments, and the Common Council also will need to vote.
“I never heard of this project before today,” said Daniel Sack, vice president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture. “This is the way a lot of governments like to work, without any light around.”
Sack said the city needs more transparency, even if it's a good project.
Brown said he hopes once the parcel is appraised, the developer will pay the site's full value.
Paladino expects to begin construction on “The Carlo” in 2014 and finish in late 2015. He said he expects to seek tax abatements.
The project is named in honor of Paladino's grandfather, Carlo Paladino, who brought his family to the United States in 1925.
Urban Renewal Agency personnel came to Paladino's group and said they wanted the project on a piece of their land, he said.
“We spent a lot of money getting this ready, so they're willing to give us preferred developer status,” Paladino said. “We're elated that they came to us and wanted both projects, in effect.”
The project would bring 138 hotel rooms to an area that will see 200 rooms at HarborCenter, the Sabres' development, and 96 rooms at a Courtyard by Marriott at One Canalside, the former Donovan State Office Building. The opening dates for the projects are staggered, but all are scheduled to be open by late 2015.
Robert D. Gioia, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which has approved the HarborCenter and One Canalside developments, welcomed the news.
“This is great critical mass for Canalside,” Gioia said. “This partnership with the city and Canalside is building some excitement downtown.”
Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of the Visit Buffalo Niagara, said that hotel occupancy in the city is high, but that marketing efforts are needed in order for demand to meet the growing supply.
“Now is the time to be marketing the destination,” she said. “We have real challenges now because there is opportunity and better product and a need to drive demand.”
The Webster Block's request for proposals process, which began in Brown's State of the City speech last year, has generated nearly a quarter-billion dollars in development on the waterfront when “The Carlo” is included, Brown said.
The Sabres and Pegula will spend $172.2 million to build two indoor ice rinks, a hotel, restaurant and parking garage across Perry Street from their home at First Niagara Center.
News Staff Reporter Robert J. McCarthy contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org