After Statler’s death in 1928, the company moved forward and additional hotels were built in DC, LA, Hartford, CT, and Dallas. Many of these hotels were designed by the architectural firm of George Post & Sons, the success of George B. Post that constructed the first Hotel Statler in Buffalo. In 1954, The Hotel Statler Company, Inc., was sold to Conrad Hilton’s (Hilton Hotels) for $111 million, which at that time was the world’s largest real estate transaction.
Since the peak of the Statler Company in the mid-20th century, many of the hotels have been renovated to keep up with repairs and modernization, while others were left to deteriorate. One of these slowly depreciating Statler’s was Buffalo’s own, at Niagara Square. The coming decades leading up into the 21st century found less and less funding to the hotel, and more and more structural damage piling up. Floor by floor, the building began to shut down, as the infrastructure grew to be unsafe for overnight guests and employees.
It wasn’t until 2006, when the British developer BSC Group purchased the building for $3.5 million, that serious renovation plans were made. Their plan encompassed retail space on floors 1 and 2, office space on floors 3-6, a 150-room hotel on floors 7-9, and residential condos on floors 10-18. Renovation plans also included repairs to building elevators and the refurbishment of fixtures and design back to their original appearance. There had also been proposals for a 10-story addition to the building’s east side, in which 3 stories would be dedicated to a parking deck (400-500 spaces). While the plans were in place, the BSC Group ended up filing for bankruptcy, as restoration costs proved unfeasible. This left the Statler Buffalo at the fate of the city, and the increasing likelihood of demolition.
In August 2010, a Federal Bankruptcy Court approved the purchase of the Statler Towers by Mark Croce and his business partner, James Eagan. They put down a deposit of $100,000 under the name “Statler City LLC,” which was accepted, so long as they cover back taxes, utilities, and additional costs amounting to $700,000. The deal was finalized in March 2011, with a long road of renovations ahead.
Croce’s initial plan was to start on the deteriorating exterior, which infamously has dropped pieces into the roadway, causing safety hazards to pedestrians. The exterior work was begun in the spring of 2011, with estimated costs of $2.5 million for “emergency masonry restoration work.” “We have to deal with the terracotta, the roof issues, take care of some of the water-related issues on the property. Once we get that fixed, then we start on the interior,” said Croce, in a March 2011 interview. During this time, the first three floors were the main focus for interior restoration, which included refurbishments to the Golden Ballroom, Terrace Room, Rendezvous Room, and the Georgian Room. Just a few short months later, Mark Croce opened the Statler doors to the Irish Festival in August 2011, bringing 9,000 people into the space. The first wedding of the newly reopened Statler was held on October 8, 2011 – with over 50 more booked before renovations were even complete.
Mark Croce’s restorations to the first three floors went as planned, with this space completely restored in time for the first Ice Ball, held on New Years Eve of 2011. While this event received lackluster reviews, as 4,000 tickets were sold for an event that should have only hosted 1,500, it was still a great way to show off the renovations made to the Statler thus far. The 2012 Ice Ball has just been announced and will be a celebration of the Statler’s first year of revitalization. Tickets have been limited to 1,500, which will surely improve the experience for those in attendance.
With “phase one” complete, tenants are beginning to send in proposals for 1st floor retail space. Muscarelli’s Fine Desserts was the first to rent space, followed by a Thai and sushi restaurant. An 18th floor night club is also proposed, overlooking the city and Lake Erie, while Croce is in negotiations with a “high-profile tenant” for the rest of the 18th floor.
Commercial tenants for the actual towers are still being proposed and reviewed by Mark Croce. Renovating this space, floors 4-18, will be his next investment into the Statler. Robert Knoer, legal representative for Statler City, in a November 2011 interview said: “While banquet, event space, and multiple bars and restaurants are planned for the lower levels of Statler City, Mark has decided to let the market dictate what the highest and best purpose for the towers will be.”
In other words, we’ll have to wait and see….