A year ago, Mayor Byron W. Brown made a splash during his State of the City address when he announced that Carl P. Paladino’s Ellicott Development would be granted exclusive rights to develop a prime piece of waterfront real estate.
A week after the speech, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency granted the company preferred development status, and board members said they wanted to keep the waterfront momentum going. They praised Paladino’s vision for a $75 million hotel, office, apartment and retail complex on what has been a parking lot near Erie Basin Marina.
That status is now about to expire, and there won’t be a shovel in the ground until late winter 2015, or nearly a year behind Paladino’s original goal of beginning construction this March, Paladino said.
The city is working to clear title to the property, and hopes to have it done by the end of this week, when the agreement with Ellicott Development expires.
Some preliminary environmental work on the site has begun, and the company has early drawings for the 14-story complex, called “The Carlo,” named after Paladino’s grandfather. But Paladino said he won’t spend what he estimates will be at least $1 million on architectural drawings and engineering work before his company owns the land.
“It’s an expensive ordeal,” he said.
The delay in acquiring the property has its own costs, Paladino said.
“Obviously it’s going to cost us money because interest rates are going up,” Paladino said. “We’re not happy about any of that. We lost this construction season.”
The city is working in good faith, Paladino said. He does not doubt that the project will move forward, but said the title issues “should have been signed off months ago.”
Paladino won development rights to 5½ acres owned by the Urban Renewal Agency at Erie Street and Wilkeson Way after he had submitted a plan for the Webster Block, north of First Niagara Center. City officials said they liked his Webster Block plan but went with a proposal for a hockey-themed development by the Buffalo Sabres instead, and HarborCenter is now under construction there. Months later, the city gave Paladino exclusive rights to the waterfront parcel, which includes a surface parking lot and green space, without soliciting other bidders for the site.
The first phase of the project, which includes the 14-story tower, will be built on 2 acres of surface parking.
Office buildings at Waterfront Village have rights to parking nearby, and the city has to work with the buildings’ owners in order to clear the title to the land and sell the property to Ellicott Development.
A meeting between the city and the private entity that recently bought two of the three commercial buildings is scheduled this week. “You have a company that invested in that area 30, 40 years ago; we want to respect their investment that they made and try to address, largely their parking concerns and the design concerns,” said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Right now, the conversations that we’ve had are fairly good.”
Mehaffy said there is no reason to believe that the project won’t come to fruition: “Carl and the city, the mayor, are committed to do this. We hope we will just work through some final details.”
Paladino said he will seek brownfield tax credits for the project, which includes about 143 hotel rooms, 36 apartments, 120,000 square feet of office space, two restaurants, a spa, an indoor-outdoor pool, a banquet facility and 15,000 square feet of retail space.