Hearing will help determine Statler funding decision

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 8:04 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Hearing will help determine Statler funding decision

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 8:04 AM EDT

Empire State Development Corp. has set a public hearing on the request for funding targeted for the Statler City project.

The state agency has set a June 4 public hearing, set for 9 a.m. in Room 1317 of Buffalo City Hall, as part of the public process needed before the agency's directors can vote on releasing $5.3 million needed to help finance some exterior renovations and other upgrades to the 18-story, downtown Buffalo landmark.

The project has the support from the City of Buffalo.

Statler City owner Mark Croce, who bought the building more than two years ago, said the state funds are critical as he moves forward with the building's renovation. Croce has invested more than $6 million in bringing the one-time mothballed, 90-year-old building back to life as a catering and special events center.

The state dollars, Croce said, will be used to help finance long overdue terra cotta repairs and other exterior and interior renovations. The work could be completed within the next year - if the funds are approved.

"It's strictly building stabilization dollars," Croce said. "I'm trying to make up for many years of neglect."

Croce is still working on long-term plans for the building's upper floors. The first two floors, plus the lower level Rendez Vous Room are used to host weddings, corporate events and other special events.

"Restoring the Statler fits right into (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo's economic development wheelhouse of putting a focus on hospitality and tourism initiatives," Croce said.

The Statler had gone through a series of owners and development plans, from a hotel to a multi-tenant office building. Before Croce acquired the Statler through a complicated bankruptcy case, it's future was very much in doubt.

"It could have ended up with a wrecking ball tearing it down," Croce said. "Instead, I am saving the building, especially for what it means for Buffalo."

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