|By Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 15, 2012--A new hotel with a marquee name is coming to downtown Buffalo's Canalside area.
A 96-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel will occupy space in the former Donovan State Office Building alongside Buffalo's second-largest law firm and a block away from Buffalo Sabres games.
It will be the first hotel in Buffalo for Marriott International, the world's largest hotel company, and the first hotel in Canalside.
"The iconic brand of Marriott is finally coming into Buffalo," said Eric Recoon, vice president of leasing and development at Benderson Development Co. "This will be the first Marriott-flagged hotel in the city."
The hotel rooms will be located on the second, third and fourth floors of the eight-story building, with the lobby, an accompanying restaurant and "other amenities" on the first floor, Recoon said. The restaurant is still being firmed up, he added, declining to identify it.
Plans call for the new hotel to open in late 2013, around the same time as law firm Phillips Lytle LLP is slated to move into renovated space in the redeveloped former state office building. Recoon would not say how much the hotel portion will cost.
"It's happening. I know it's a done deal," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and chief executive officer of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the rebranded Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The new hotel will be the third Courtyard by Marriott in the area, along with a Benderson-owned property in Cheektowaga and another in Amherst.
Buffalo Lodging, a Massachusetts-based subsidiary of Benderson, is developing the hotel in the 160,000-square-foot Donovan Building.
Buffalo Lodging owns and operates about 40 hotels in the U.S. and Canada. The Courtyard would be its second hotel in downtown Buffalo, along with the nearby Hampton Inn on Delaware Avenue. Buffalo Lodging also operates Hampton Inn hotels in Cheektowaga and Williamsville, Homewood Suites hotels in Amherst and Cheektowaga, Fairfield Inns in Cheektowaga and Buffalo, a Hilton Garden Inn near the airport and a Sleep Inn.
The new location would offer convenient lodging for clients or employees of various companies with business downtown, including Phillips Lytle, as well as for visitors to the Canalside district's waterfront attractions.
But perhaps more importantly, the new project would put quality hotel space just a block away from First Niagara Center, which hosts Sabres hockey games, big concerts and other entertainment events that draw crowds from a much larger region, including from Canada.
"This is a pretty unique project," Recoon said. "It's going to be a unique urban Marriott with some amenities and attractions that are a little different than you'd find in a traditional Courtyard and will be representative of the Canalside district in which it will reside."
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, welcomed the development. "Reports of a commitment by Marriott to locate at the intersection of downtown and our waterfront, at the former Donovan site, provide evidence that the groundwork we have laid in recent months is paying off in jobs and private economic investment," he said. "This private sector confidence is confirmation of the improvements we see every day and is why I am bullish on Buffalo's future."
The plan marks another step forward in redeveloping the Donovan Building, a rectangular structure that has sat abandoned since its tenants vacated it for new office space.
The block-long building is located at 125 Main St., across the street from the former Memorial Auditorium site, making it a prime parcel within the larger Canalside district. It's also just down the street from the One HSBC Center tower.
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the arm of the Empire State Development Corp. that is charged with waterfront development in Buffalo, sought proposals from developers last year for conversion of the Donovan Building to new uses. Benderson was the only formal bidder and was selected for its $30 million project to turn the building into Class A office space on the upper seven floors, with a restaurant and retail space on the first floor.
As part of that plan, Phillips Lytle -- whose HSBC tower lease expires in December 2013 -- announced in July that it would move from 85,000 square feet in the city's tallest building to the top four floors of Donovan. The move is likely to be staged over several weeks and will be done by the end of 2013 or January 2014, Recoon said.
But Phillips Lytle isn't convinced about the benefits of sharing the building with a hotel.
The law firm's managing partner, David McNamara, said there are "lots of details to be worked through, including details that could impact us, and we're going to consider those when the time comes."
"It depends on a lot of different considerations," he said. "We think it's in all likelihood going to be a mixed bag, but we're reserving judgment until we know more about their plans."
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