|By Jill Terreri, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 06, 2012--The city Wednesday announced progress on a new downtown hotel project, the latest in a string of such developments that have made news recently.
The Hamister Group is leading a $40 million revitalization of the Tishman Building on Lafayette Square into a 123-room hotel, restaurant, apartments and its new company headquarters.
The city has set up an agreement to allow the developer to use part of the sidewalk for vehicle access to the building entrance, though it has not been finalized, and has invested $1.2 million in the project, said Mayor Byron W. Brown.
The Hamister group is not concerned that the hotel market will be oversaturated with the planned addition of hotel rooms in the Donovan Building and on the Webster Block, where Buffalo Sabres officials announced last week that they will invest $123 million.
Chairman and CEO Mark
Hamister said the company brought in a consultant, HVS, and was encouraged by what the group found. "They were extremely bullish," he said. "In fact, they were more bullish than we were about not only current demand but also about what's happening in the city of Buffalo to grow that demand."
Seeing the Embassy Suites' success in the Avant Building and the transformation of the Hotel Lafayette helped the company make the decision to invest downtown, he said.
The other key piece the company needed was historic tax credits, which it will receive, with a value of about $8 million, said Daniel Hamister, senior vice president of business development.
The project will bring about 30 employees who work in the company's Amherst offices to the building's top three floors and will create about 50 jobs in a new Hilton Garden Inn. About 400 construction jobs will also be created.
"We are pleased and proud to be investing in a city that believes in solid, sustainable economic growth," Mark Hamister said.
The development also includes apartments of varying size, which will rent for about $1,300 and $1,500 per month. Parking will be available in the Adams ramp.
Construction is expected to begin before the end of the year, with completion in 2014.
The building is 54 years old and was the first new building of its size that had been built in the city in 30 years. It was also the first building in the city with a glass-wall facade, Mark Hamister said.
National Fuel was headquartered there until 2003.
The building's existing entrance will be used for apartment residents and office workers. A separate entrance, closer to Main Street, will be constructed and will be linked to Lafayette Square with a roadway that will be cut into the sidewalk.
In documents filed with the Common Council last week, the Brown administration asks that a public hearing be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 18 and that the Council approve an agreement between the city and the Hamister Group for a non-exclusive easement, for which the company will pay $167,000.
"We have reviewed this with some members of the Council, and we anticipate no problem with approval," Brown said.
The Council's Community Development Committee will review the proposal next week.
"Nothing should be taken for granted," said committee Chairman Joseph Golombek. "I'm not saying it won't ultimately be approved."
He said that although it's probably a done deal, people shouldn't assume that.
Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said he had questions about whether the project would compromise the historical value of Lafayette Square and about the terms of the agreement.
"I don't know if there's a problem, but I'll probably have a couple questions," he said.
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