Richardson project heading to ECIDA (With Photos)

May 25, 2013 Updated May 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM EDT

By Jim Fink, Business First

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Richardson project heading to ECIDA (With Photos)

May 25, 2013 Updated May 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM EDT

In what may be the first of several key public sector approvals needed to advance the project, the development team behind the proposed dramatic transformation of the long vacant H.H. Richardson Towers complex will be seeking an incentive package from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

The IDA has scheduled a June 4 public hearing to consider a request from the Richardson Center Corp. and affiliated Richardson Center Development Corp. for sales, mortgage and property on the $56.4 million project. The full IDA board is expected to consider and vote on the incentive package when it meets on June 17.

Vacant for the better part of four decades, the future of the historic H.H. Richardson Towers took a giant step forward this winter when it was announced that the Buffalo landmark will soon be host to a boutique hotel, events center and architectural resource center.

While the complex remains owned by the not-for-profit, Richardson Center Corp., local businessman Dennis Murphy, owner of InnVest Lodging Services will be developing the property. The initial phase will include a 90-room boutique hotel, due to open in October 2015, followed by a potential 40-room expansion by 2018.

Murphy, who is also Visit Buffalo Niagara chairman, is no stranger to tackling high profile conversion projects. He previously transformed the former Sternberg House on Delaware Avenue into the acclaimed Mansion on Delaware.

“The IDA hearing is one of many, many steps we need to do in this process,” Murphy said.

Construction could start later this year, Murphy said.

Future phases may add a restaurant, catering center and other amenities.

The plan offers clarity to what has been a major architectural issue hovering over Buffalo’s landscape for the better part of two decades. The towers, a nationally-registered historic landmark, have been eyed by a number of developers whose plans never materialized.

“There is a uniqueness to the center,” Murphy said. “A good part of that comes from its history and status as a national historic landmark.”

Buffalo’s Flynn Battaglia Architects, working in conjunction with Deborah Berke Partners and Goody Clancy, are handling the architectural and engineering work while LPCiminelli has been tabbed as the construction manager.

Funding is coming through $37.4 in previously allocated state funds and $19 million in historic and New Market Tax Credits.

The initial work will put more than 500 construction workers on site and create 90 full-time, permanent jobs.