Like all historic sites in Buffalo, I like to see and experience them for myself. That’s why I visited the Hotel Lafayette this past weekend, and explored everything that they have to offer. Before even crossing Washington Street to enter the Hotel, we were stopped by a production crew, filming a scene for the new movie, Ward’s Island. I later discovered that scenes are being shot in Buffalo to reflect New York City, which will be the focal point of the movie. Staging Buffalo as New York City? I thought that was odd too, but a nice comparison none-the-less…
So after watching the car zoom by, and hearing the production crew announce, “We didn’t get the shot,” after the 5th take, we crossed the street and entered the Pan American Grill & Brewery, the former Lafayette Tap Room. The decor reflected that of its sister restaurant, the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, and the food was great (highly recommend the crab dip!). After dinner, we explored the main floor of the Lafayette, taking in the lobby, corridors, flower shop, and of course, one of the ballrooms. As it was about 6pm on a Saturday, I poked my head into one of the first floor ballrooms to see it beautifully decorated for a wedding reception that had yet to begin (later ran into the bridal party as they made their way toward the ballroom). You can see the quick shot I was able to take below of the ballroom’s grandeur.
The successful renovations and refurbishments to the Hotel @ the Lafayette (as it is now called) can be directly attributed to Rocco Termini, the developer who purchased the building after it officially closed its doors in April 2010 (the first time the hotel had been closed since it opened in 1904). The contract was signed in mid-2011, and because plans had already been drawn out and approved, construction began within weeks. The project brought many jobs to the city, as nearly 200 people worked in the building on a daily basis.
The first floor saw complete restorations to the main lobby, sitting rooms, ballrooms, and retail shops. The lobby was restored to its 1940’s Art Deco design, while the remainder of the floor was refurbished to its original Renaissance design of 1904. This Renaissance design was incorporated into the first floor ballrooms, including the Crystal and Marquis ballrooms. Additional rooms that were restored on the first floor include the Lafayette Tap Room (now, the Pan American Grill & Brewery), the Triple A Room, and what is now Mike A’s Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant. Retail space was also added to the main floor, including room for Butterwood’s Bakery and Woyshner’s Flower Shop. As seen from these product offerings, the Hotel Lafayette is looking to be a one-stop-shop for weddings – encompassing the ballroom, flower shop, wedding cake, and overnight stay. The first floor now consists of the Marquis, Crystal, Grand Ballrooms, the Pan-American Grill, Mike A’s high-end restaurant, Butterwood’s, Woyshner’s, and additional retail space.
The second floor reconstruction consisted of expanding hotel rooms, creating a 34-room boutique hotel. The remaining 3rd-7th floors went through extensive reconstruction and reconfigurations, creating space for 115 apartments (1 and 2 bedroom) that are now available to rent.
The project was complete in a year’s time, and while the grand (re)opening was celebrated on May 29, 2012, the doors actually opened on May 1 for tenants (95 out of 115 apartments had already been rented out by this time). The final cost of the project was $42 million, $7 million over initial projections. Throughout the renovation project, over 30 companies were brought in, some as far away as Russia.
“It really wasn’t a construction job,” Termini said. “It was a restoration job and we’ve tried to preserve everything the way it was 110 years ago.”
Termini concluded, “It looks better than the day it opened. That’s how original it is.”
Find out more about the history of the Hotel Lafayette here.