Location: 85 W. Mohawk St., at South Elmwood Avenue
Description: British developer Bashar Issa, who first bought the Statler Towers, envisioned the largest skyscraper in Buffalo. The 40-story tower of offices, hotel rooms and condo units had price tag of $361 million. Issa expected to start construction in 2008 and finish by 2010.
Quote: “It will give new hope to Buffalo. It will be a symbol of rebirth for those who live and work here and to those outside the region that this is a city on the rise,” Issa.
Signs of trouble: He ran into labor issues and workplace safety complaints at the Statler, and stopped work because of financing woes.
Mortality report: In July 2008, Issa sold the City Tower site for $2.15 million to developer Mark Croce. The parcel remains a parking lot. Back home, Issa was jailed in March for a scheme to defraud the British government of millions in tax relief offered to filmmakers.
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Store
Location: Memorial Auditorium
Description: Initially a $123 million megastore, the company’s third-largest, drawing up to five million annual visitors to a renovated Aud and boosted by $66 million in public subsidies.
Quote: “I just know that it is going to be one of the most important things to happen in downtown Buffalo in decades, if not in generations,” Gov. George E. Pataki.
Signs of trouble: We started hearing about Bass Pro in 2001, but it took 3½ years for an official announcement. Bass Pro never signed a binding legal document. Deadlines were missed and extended. The company built stores in Auburn, the Toronto area and Pittsburgh.
Mortality report: In July 2010, in response to a public ultimatum, Bass Pro’s chairman sent a letter saying the company was pulling out. The state is spending $20 million at the Aud site to re-create the Erie Canal system, with winter skating. Work could be delayed into 2014.
Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex
Announced: October 2012
Location: Outer Harbor
Description: A $1.4 billion complex consisting of a 72,000-seat retractable domed stadium for the Buffalo Bills and a North American Museum of Sports and Culture, and a hotel, retail and dining establishments. The stadium would double as a convention center.
Quote: “The fans will say, ‘Fantastic, it’s about time.’ They’ve been in that cold stadium for 40 years, and the same thing with War Memorial Stadium,” Nicholas J. Stracick, a backer of the complex.
Signs of trouble: Bills CEO Russ Brandon called the idea a “non-starter.” And the NFTA, which controls the land, won’t grant development rights to the project’s sponsor.
Mortality report: The idea still has its supporters, but neither the Bills nor the NFTA has been receptive.
New Peace Bridge
Announced: Multiple ideas over many years
Location: Niagara River
Description: The push for a new Peace Bridge – be it a signature span, a twin span or a three-span arch – generated multiple visions over the decades, but no actual new bridge.
Quote: “A new bridge could become for Western New York what the Golden Gate has become for San Francisco’s Bay area,” Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Signs of trouble: Lack of progress after millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded environmental studies and design work.
Mortality report: The latest proposal for a new bridge hit a dead end in summer 2011. Attention turned to improving the Buffalo plaza, amid a process that was anything but peaceful.
Adelphia Communications tower
Location: site of the Donovan State Office Building, initially, and later the Webster Block.
Description: Fifteen-story, $150 million waterfront office tower for 1,500 employees of Adelphia Communications, then the country’s fourth-largest cable company. Originally included renovating the Aud as an entertainment complex and studios for Empire Sports Network.
Quote: “Adelphia’s partnership with the Cordish Company team will create a true ‘dream team’ for economic development, private-sector job creation and urban entertainment,” Mayor Anthony Masiello.
Signs of trouble: Cordish Co. dropped out in February 2002. Adelphia revealed billions in off-the-book loans, declared bankruptcy and saw several top executives charged with fraud.
Mortality report: Adelphia founder John J. Rigas remains in federal prison and Time Warner Cable bought up Adelphia’s local assets. Benderson is converting Donovan building into a hotel and offices, and Sabres owner Terry Pegula is building a complex on the Webster Block.
Announced: April 2003
Location: Outer Harbor
Description: Toronto-based Syata Group’s vision for a $137 million, 400,000-square-foot domed amusement park on 80 acres, with activities including snowboarding, white-water rafting, a skating rink, an amphitheater and restaurants, bars and entertainment.
Quote: “Welcome to what we hope will be the first day of a new era for Buffalo’s waterfront,” County Executive Joel Giambra.
Signs of trouble: Syata needed to secure at least $45 million in private funding by a deadline to make the project a go. That did not happen.
Mortality report: The domed park was a doomed park, and was declared dead in October 2003.
Buffalo Lakefront LLC
Announced: January 2005
Location: Outer Harbor
Description: Buffalo Lakefront LLC’s $750 million concept was for a mixed-use neighborhood with improved water access via a new marina and canal system, 1,000 new residences, a convention center, two hotels, office space, a sports complex and harborside theater.
Quote: “This is a very happy day for us. We’re doing something that has been long waited for and is very important for Buffalo’s future,” NFTA chairman Luiz F. Kahl.
Signs of trouble: By late 2006, the development team and NFTA still had not agreed on a formal contract.
Mortality report: Buffalo Lakefront’s dream fizzled, leaving plenty of acreage undeveloped for the next big idea.
Makeover of downtown Niagara Falls
Location: More than 140 acres in downtown Niagara Falls off the Robert Moses Parkway.
Description: A complete transformation of the entire downtown area, with new casinos, restaurants, theaters and hotels, to “bring the honeymooners back to Niagara Falls.”
Quote: “There’s no reason we can’t do here what Disney World did for Orlando,” said a lawyer for Niagara Falls Redevelopment.
Signs of trouble: Non-Indian casino gambling, the centerpiece of the plan, was never approved by the state. Founder Eddie Cogan died suddenly in 2003.
Mortality report: Manhattan billionaire Howard P. Milstein controls the land, which sits mostly vacant to this day.
Location: Former Occidental Chemical “flashcube” building a block from the falls.
Description: A $25 million, 40,000-square-foot underground aquarium with colorful fish, eels, rays, sharks and lobsters.
Quote: Gov. George E. Pataki said the project would be “the largest private investment in Niagara Falls in 50 years.”
Signs of trouble: A gigantic hole was dug – but never filled. International financing for the plan never came through.
Mortality report: After the plan was abandoned, a developer filled the hole and paved a parking lot.
The Magical Land of Oz
Location: 400-acre site in Wheatfield near the Summit Mall.
Description: A $1 billion Wizard of Oz theme park described as a “combination of Disney World and Universal Studios.”
Quote: “Not only do I talk the talk, I think I walk the walk,” said Richard A. Burch, the Midwestern businessman behind the project.
Signs of trouble: Details about copyrights were sketchy, and it was never clear where the money was coming from.
Mortality report: A promotional website still exists, but that’s about the only sign of life for this project.