One of Buffalo’s most iconic locations is getting a $1.2 million makeover.
Marcy Casino, which overlooks Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park will open May 1 with a refurbished interior, a new deck and a brand-new, much more reliable elevator.
Next door at the Rose Garden, work will begin in the fall to replace deteriorating columns on the pergola, install new red tile and make the area between the garden and the casino more friendly to people with physical disabilities.
“It’s improving the connectivity of the building to the landscape, it’s improving the whole aesthetic conditions of this part of the park, it’s improving the horticulture, it’s getting back to the original Olmsted design, it’s improving drainage,” said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Delaware Park is Buffalo’s most famous park and the site of 1.8 million visits every year. Shakespeare Hill near the Rose Garden welcomes about 40,000 people to its Shakespeare in Delaware Park summer theater series.
The Rose Garden and casino are two of the most popular wedding destinations in Western New York, and it’s not an accident that the projects bookend this year’s wedding season.
“The whole intention was to get it done as quickly as possible, as much done as possible, and then move on so it can be utilized,” City Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said of the casino work.
For the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, rental of the city-owned Marcy Casino brings in significant revenue. The three golf courses in the parks and the casino generate $500,000 annually, or 15 percent of the conservancy’s budget.
Inside the casino, construction workers Friday were busy preparing the walls for paint and getting ready for a new concrete pour in time for a May 3 wedding.
The casino, which dates back to the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, had a crumbling deck, which is also the ceiling in the Pan-Am room, which overlooks Hoyt Lake and is booked weekly for wedding receptions and corporate meetings.
The city closed the casino in October in order to rip out the deck, which had been damaged by water and other elements, and replace it with new pre-cast concrete. The old and new decks were swapped out using a crane.
The heavy equipment damaged some stone pavers around Hoyt Lake, and they will be replaced once the work is done, said Patrick Sullivan, supervisor of building construction for the city.
During the harsh winter, plastic covered the Pan-Am room to protect it, and construction workers, from the elements. Once the concrete was in place, it was covered with a roofing system, and then more concrete will be poured over that.
“It’s an interesting, difficult project,” Sullivan said.
Because the deck is new, the Pan-Am room’s ceiling underneath also will be new. The Pan-Am room’s floor will get new carpet and a new dance floor, and new lighting and doors that lead out to the adjacent eastern deck were installed.
To make the entire casino accessible to people who are mobility-impaired under standards in the Americans With Disabilities Act, an entirely new elevator shaft was created in the middle of the facility, for a lift that makes three stops.
“As we do with all our buildings, when we get in there and do major renovations, we want to make sure they’re all ADA compliant,” Stepniak said.
Because of the unstable soil near Hoyt Lake, the construction of the elevator shaft required micropiles dug 30 feet below the casino’s elevation, down to the bedrock, said Sullivan.
An older elevator failed frequently.
The entire project cost $867,000, which the city is paying for with bonds, Stepniak said. The elevator portion, included in that total, cost about $200,000.
In the Rose Garden, which sits to the south of the casino and is used frequently for wedding ceremonies, the parks conservancy is spending $285,000 to replace the 36 columns, replace the tiles under the pergola and make the area more accessible. The conservancy expects to finish the project in time for spring 2015.
Parking that now exists between the casino and the garden will be eliminated, and new landscaping will be installed. A new parking area will be added just off of Lincoln Parkway, and a wheelchair ramp leading to the casino will be eliminated and an at-grade sidewalk will be installed.
“It elegantly takes you from the new handicap parking spaces over to the casino without having to go up and down this awkward ramp,” Herrera-Mishler said.
The pedestrian pathways leading to the casino will be restored to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design.
“It’s going to make arriving at Shakespeare Hill, for example, much more pleasant and safe,” he said. “There just isn’t going to be the same kind of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts we have now.”
The project is funded by a $250,000 state grant, $30,000 from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and $5,000 from a local family foundation.