|By Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 10, 2009--Downtown Buffalo's newest hotel opened for business this week, as the Embassy Suites in the $85 million Avant project took in its first guests with half the hotel filled.
The 150-suite hotel opened without fanfare on the first seven floors of the former Dulski Federal Building at 200 Delaware Avenue. Plans called for an "easy opening," but hotel general manager John Gurren said it's "nearly sold out for the next several weekends."
"We have had a tremendous interest in reservations for the last several months," he said in Uniland Development Co.'s announcement of the opening.
The Embassy Suites is the newest hospitality provider in downtown Buffalo, which is widely seen as lacking enough quality hotel rooms to accommodate the kind of influx that would accompany large meetings and conventions.
As such, its opening has been welcomed, even by other hotel operators eager to create a cluster near the Buffalo Convention Center. Embassy Suites is part of Hilton Hotels Corp.
"We are neighbors and will undoubtedly find ourselves working together to make downtown Buffalo a more exciting and desirable location for travelers to Western New York," said Ronald R. Kendall, president of Buffalo Lodging, the Benderson Development Co. unit that owns the Hampton Inn & Suites on Delaware Avenue.
"People are finally recognizing that downtown Buffalo is a place to invest and raise the bar," said developer and restaurateur Mark Croce, who is planning his own upscale hotel project nearby.
"It brings more people downtown and create jobs, [and] also will help Buffalo attract more conventions with added rooms," said Arun "Andy" Patel, partner at Visions Hotels, which owns Comfort Suites and Adam's Mark Hotel downtown.
But he cautioned the addition of new rooms will take business from other hotels and "will not help any hotel owner in downtown" during the recession.
The new Embassy Suites Buffalo offers a lap pool, fitness center, banquet facilities and four restaurants. Della Terra, its flagship restaurant, features northern Italian cuisine.
Each suite features a separate living room, desk and dining area, refrigerator, microwave, bath and bedroom, plus two flat-screen televisions. "It's the perfect configuration for business and family travel," said Gurren.
More than 3,000 people applied for the hotel's 100 jobs.
The opening of the hotel is the second phase in the 15-story building's completion. Last month, law firm Damon Morey moved in on the 11th and 12th floors, becoming the building's first commercial tenant. Three more floors of Class A space remain, and Uniland said there is "active interest" in that space.
Finally, Uniland is still selling luxury condominiums on the top three floors of the building. Originally, 28 residences were available at prices ranging from $450,000 to $1.7 million, but two buyers combined two units each, reducing the total to 26. Nearly half have been sold.
The first four residences sold for more than $1 million each, with a fifth later going in that range. Three others also were available for more than $1 million. The first residents will close in early fall.
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