Buffalo Selects Sabres To Develop Webster Block

August 29, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 4:05 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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August 29, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 4:05 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (release) - Mayor Byron Brown was pleased to announce today the selection of HARBORcenter Development, LLC (the development company affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres) as the preferred developer of the Webster Block. He also released the term sheet, outlining the plan to create two new ice rinks, which coupled with the existing rink, makes this facility the “first of its kind” in the United States. The project also calls for a hotel, retail, a restaurant and new parking, for a total estimated project cost of $123 million.

“This is an exciting day for Downtown Buffalo and its waterfront,” said Mayor Brown. “I want to thank HARBORcenter Development, LLC and the Buffalo Sabres for putting before us a remarkable proposal that will re-make this prime piece of city-owned land, and bring tremendous economic impact to the community.”

“We are proud to be named the preferred developer of the Webster Block,” said Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres. “This project will further enhance the current development at Canalside and in the process, create a destination attraction to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Buffalo’s waterfront on a yearly basis. Canalside has seen a rebirth the past few years and we expect our project to act as a catalyst for future development on the waterfront.”

The Webster Block, a 1.7 acre city owned site located directly across from First Niagara Center, is considered a prized downtown parcel due to its location in downtown Buffalo, its proximity to Canalside, two major sports venues, and the Peace Bridge. The HARBORcenter Development project is expected to provide approximately 1,500 construction jobs. Once complete, the facilities are expected to create 350 full-time jobs, and generate $4.1 million in state and local taxes, $48 million over the next ten years.

“The City received two excellent and competitive proposals for the Webster Block, and there was strong support for each plan,” said Mayor Brown. “In the end, the Selection Committee recommended the project it believed would be best for the City of Buffalo, and selected HARBORcenter Development and the Buffalo Sabres.”

Two major development proposals were submitted to the City of Buffalo after Mayor Brown issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in April, 2012, encouraging developers to put forth their best ideas to create something great downtown Buffalo.

HARBORcenter Development, LLC (the development company affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres) submitted a $123 million hockey-themed proposal that included plans for two new ice rinks, (one with seating capacity for at least 1,800 people, and the other with seating capacity for at least 200 people) a hotel, retail and a restaurant. Ellicott Development Company led a team that proposed a $64 million plan that included office space, retail, a hotel and apartments.

A selection committee of Mayor Brown’s Senior Management Team, led by Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, was named to review the proposals and submit a recommendation to Mayor Brown. A group of community leaders, including business owners and professionals, block club representatives and clergy, were also identified to work with the selection committee to review proposals and submit a recommendation.

On July 27, 2012, both Ellicott Development Company and HARBORcenter Development presented their proposals to the selection committee and community representatives. The presentations were recorded and played repeatedly on public access television and made available on the City of Buffalo’s website. The public also submitted comments in response to the presentations via websterblockrfp@city-buffalo.com.

Following the presentations, the two development companies were invited back individually to meet with the selection committee and clarify any information. HARBORcenter Development met August 7th. Ellicott Development Company met August 8th. On August 20, 2012, both Ellicott Development Company and HARBORcenter Development returned to present additional information to the selection committee and seven community representatives.

When all the factors were added up, including the size of the overall $123 million investment and the purchase price for the land, the HARBORcenter Development proposal gained favor. In addition to building the new facilities, the Buffalo Sabres agreed to the following terms:

o Pay $2 million for the Webster Block

o Seek city residents for post-construction jobs

o Agreed to use local workforce for construction and meet 25% minority and 5% female hiring goals

o Agreed to 25% minority business and 5% women business enterprise participation goals

o Pay Living Wage for employees of ice rink and parking ramp

o Attain the highest reasonable environmental standards for building

o Expand parking in the building to make attendance at Canalside events more convenient for the public

o Construct a facility that attracts new hockey-themed events/tournaments, and creates new opportunities for other special events

o Committed to public, community and youth hockey use

o Receive additional community input through the charette process

HARBORcenter Development also committed to the start of construction in March 2013, with the projected completion of the parking ramp, retail and ice rinks by the beginning of the 2014 Buffalo Sabres Hockey Season. The hotel is projected to be completed by spring of 2015. The Mayor’s Administration will inform the Buffalo Common Council today about the preferred developer and provide them with the term sheet that better describes the process.

Mayor Brown concluded. “I want to thank the Selection Committee and community representatives for their input. I had confidence in the selection process from the start and knew that the committee would choose the project they felt was best for the city. We look forward to working with HARBORcenter Development and the Sabres Organization on this exciting shared initiative that will strengthen the city and region, and continue the remarkable progress in downtown Buffalo by reinventing this prime piece of city owned land.”