June 29th, 2012
Buffalo Business First Reporter – Business First
City leaders continue to review bids for a key downtown parcel.
The bids center on the nearly two-acre Webster Block nestled between First Niagara Center and HSBC Atrium. They were submitted by the Buffalo Sabres and Carl Paladino and his Ellicott Development Co. The city is expected to award a bid by Aug. 15 for the site bounded by Scott, Washington, Main and Perry streets.
Proposals had been anticipated from Paladino and the Sabres, sources said. A third bid was more conceptual and less firm than the others.
Both call for development of a hotel as a central element. However, the Sabres’ bid focuses on construction of a pair of rinks while Paladino incorporated office and apartment components. They also call for development of underground parking.
“I’m pleased with what we’ve seen,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “We got some high-quality proposals. Each was very strong and well-presented.”
The Webster Block, currently used as a 300-car surface parking lot, sits across Perry Street from First Niagara Center and across Washington Street from HSBC Atrium.
Neighbors to the north include The Buffalo News and the former Donovan State Office Building, which is being renovated as a Canalside anchor and was renamed the One Canalside Building.
Set to debut in late 2013, it will house the law offices of Phillips Lytle LLP and a 96-room Courtyards by Marriott hotel.
Brown wants construction on the Webster Block to begin by next summer.
The development comes as Canalside emerges as a popular destination. Construction projects totaling more than $75 million are under way in the Canalside footprint, including the One Canalside renovations – a $30 million project by Benderson Development Co. – and construction of the first phase of replica Erie Canal waterways.
The Webster Block is within the Canalside footprint.
Events set this summer at Canalside are expected to attract more than 400,000 people. That critical mass attracted the attention of the Sabres and Paladino.
The Sabres’ proposal calls for a pair of ice rinks – one with a seating capacity of several hundred and another with approximate seating of 1,800.
The rinks would cater to local organizations and could be the site of amateur and youth tournaments. The Sabres also would use them as a practice facility when First Niagara Center is unavailable. Other elements would be a hotel, a parking ramp for 1,000 vehicles and retail outlets.
Ellicott Development, meanwhile, proposed a 12-story building with about 700,000 square feet and anchored by a 140-room, brand-name hotel.The plan also includes 42 apartments. The building would have 110,000 square feet of Class A office space and a pass-through street.
“We want to create a very active streetscape and space,” said Paul Gregory, Ellicott Development vice president.
Preliminary architectural plans call for the building to play off the Webster Block’s history. It was home to Hotel Martinique, which was constructed in 1926, and the earlier Webster Building. With arched windows, the building would parallel the historic DLW Terminal to the south.
“Our design pays homage and resembles what was once there,” Gregory said.