|By Sharon Linstedt, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 3, 2008 - A Buffalo-area company with a fast-growing, out-of-town hotel portfolio is looking to stake its first local claim along Erie Basin Marina.
The Williamsville-based Hamister Group has signed on as the hotel partner of Ciminelli Development Co. of Amherst for proposed hotel/office/retail project to be located next to Shanghai Red's restaurant. Ciminelli is vying with J. W. Pitts Properties and Development of Buffalo to be named "designated developer" for the 1.5 acre city-owned parcel.
Ciminelli, J. W. Pitts and Tampa, Fla.-based Birchwood Properties Corp. submitted plans for the site last November, but Birchwood has bowed out of the selection process. The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency is expected to select a developer by the end of September.
Hamister Group Chief Executive Mark A. Hamister confirmed he's signed a memorandum of understanding with Ciminelli to deliver as many as 140 Hilton Hotels Corp.- brand rooms to the project.
"We've done extensive research on the hotel market in Erie County and concluded the downtown waterfront has meaningful unmet need for quality hotel rooms," Hamister said.
Ciminelli CEO Paul F. Ciminelli said he's excited to partner with Hamister.
"Mark and his company bring tremendous credence to our hotel component and to the project overall; they bolster our existing experience on this type of development," Ciminelli said in a written statement.
More specifically, Hamister said there's demand for a non-convention-style hotel to serve business travelers who need to be close to downtown clients.
"Just look at the success of the Hampton Inn on Delaware Avenue downtown," he said "They opened and were stabilized within a few months going head-to-head with the traditional convention-style hotels" such as the Buffalo Hyatt and the Adams Mark.
The Ciminelli/Hamister proposal calls for a mid-rise tower that incorporates as many as 10 floors of hotel and office space, with first-floor retail and an interior parking ramp. J. W. Pitts, which is partnering with Shanghai Red's owner Specialty Restaurant Corp., proposes a four-story, 100 room Wingate Hotel, with physical connections to the restaurant.
The Florida firm, which withdrew its plans, wanted to construct a two-story office building.
Hamister, whose company has 10 hotel properties in its portfolio, with six more under development, has no hotels in New York state.
"Our corporate headquarters is in Erie County and we'd like to have a greater presence in our hometown. We see the downtown waterfront as one of three local targets for hotel development," he said.
In June, Hamister confirmed he's interested in developing a luxury hotel on Buffalo's Outer Harbor as part of the Queen City Landing project. Phase One of that project, led by local businessmen Gerald Buchheit and Jon Williams, proposes turning the idle Freezer Queen food plant into condominiums.
"The Outer Harbor hotel is at least three to five years off and will play to a different market, so there's no conflict with what we hope to do with Ciminelli at the Erie Basin Marina site," Hamister said.
He declined to disclose his company's third hotel development target area, but described it as "suburban."
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