Uniland Development Co. can afford the expanded parking garage, after all.
Just months after downscaling its proposed parking ramp for the new 12-story office and hotel tower for Delaware North Cos., the Amherst-based developer is returning to its original plan for five levels of parking, saying it can now afford it.
Uniland notified the city’s Office of Strategic Planning that it will revert to the previously approved site plan for a five-story ramp at 250 Delaware Ave. That will accommodate 540 vehicles and 32 bicycles, the developer said Wednesday. The developer received approval for the change on Tuesday from the city Planning Board.
The original five-level design was approved by the city Planning Board on Oct. 9, 2013, along with the rest of what was then a 516,200-square-foot mixed-use project. But Uniland later scaled the ramp back amid a firestorm of criticism over the proposed public financing for the $93 million project through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
That financing plan called for a special arrangement in which the developer’s property tax payment would effectively have been funneled back into the construction of the parking ramp. That was necessary to bridge a $10 million funding gap, officials said at the time, but it created an uproar over what critics described as a “special subsidy” for Uniland.
Facing uncertainty about approval of its tax breaks, Uniland cut the plan back to a four-story ramp for 380 cars, which was approved by the Planning Board on Nov. 19 as a “potential reduction.” ECIDA eventually approved standard property, sales and mortgage tax breaks for both Uniland and Delaware North in December, totaling $8.42 million for the developer and $807,000 for the company.
Since then, however, Uniland has realized that the project is better off with five parking levels, and found ways to make it work financially.
“Through the design and construction documentation process, we have realized financial efficiencies making it prudent to proceed with the original plan to construct five levels of parking,” Uniland spokeswoman Jill Pawlik said in an emailed statement. “This will provide an even more appealing campus for the companies that choose to conduct business there.”
The building will be the new corporate headquarters for Buffalo-based Delaware North, which is relocating from the Key Center at Fountain Plaza several blocks away.
The hospitality giant will occupy about 110,000 square feet as the lead tenant of the new facility, which will have a four-story, 120-room hotel and 204,000 square feet of office space, in addition to the parking ramp and space for four retail stores. Delaware North will operate the hotel, which will be used as a training facility for its employees but will be open to the public.
The project is being constructed on the site of the former two-story Delaware Court Building, which was built in 1917. That building has been demolished, and Uniland is excavating the site at Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street.