$5.3 million for Statler renovations coming soon

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For nearly a century, the Statler has stood sentinel watching over Buffalo like a proud soldier.

“It’s beautiful,” Ellen Richardson of Buffalo proclaimed. “The debutante ball used to he held there,” she recalled.

Shari Rashkin from Hamburg nearly had her wedding reception at the Statler before it closed. “Hopefully, they can revitalize it and bring it back up,” she suggested.

Decades of decay have left their mark. Now, if you stare at the Statler, you’ll see the cracks and crumbles on the exterior.

PHOTOS | See historic images of the building, along with current photos

“It’s an icon. I would have never wanted it demolished,” Peter Boncorey suggested. He owns Fera’s on Franklin right around the corner. “I hope that things materialize sooner rather than later.”

He says the lack of progress at the historic hotel has hurt his bottom line. “It’s been a struggle the last three years to be honest.”

News 4 was there when developer Mark Croce saved the Statler from demolition in 2011. At the time Croce told the crowd, “For those that don’t know, if I get involved in a project, I stick with it.”

Croce said he needed $5 million from taxpayers to help start the renovations. News 4 has learned he’s still waiting for that grant money to help with exterior repairs.

Mayor Byron Brown said the money will be available soon. “I think it’s paperwork that’s working through the system right now. The money is there. It’s coming. It’s moving,” Brown told News 4. Records reveal the $5.3 million in state money will be funneled through Empire State Development through the City of Buffalo to Croce.

Croce declined repeated requests to comment for this story. Previously, he said he intends to tackle the renovation in stages. Mayor Brown says that’s exactly what’s happening. “He’s taking the profits from those three floors and poured that money back into the building, continuing to redevelop the building as he goes along.” The Statler City website shows the building is available for weddings, banquets and receptions; it’s also home to the Rendezvous night club as well as the Lobby Bar.

The mayor hopes Croce will create a mixed-use development. Council President Darius Pridgen also backs that plan. He calls the Statler “a beacon of light.”

“Obviously, the Statler is an open canvas. When we’re talking about housing in Buffalo, [it] could really be something brand new from what we’ve seen in many of the developments,” Pridgen suggested.

Pridgen and Brown both remain optimistic the project will continue moving forward. The mayor believes the Statler can be a part of his strategic plan which calls for adding 1,300 new housing units downtown by approximately 2019.

Standing in the shadow of Statler, Boncorey said he has hope Croce will get creative with the space. He suggested “lawyers, the UB Dental School or law school students” could all occupy the building. “It’s an icon in Downtown Buffalo, and it deserves to stay where it is,” he concluded.

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