Senecas pick architect for Buffalo casino

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:29 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:29 AM EDT

The Hnedak Bob Group, a Memphis-based architecture and interior design firm with a history of working with Indian tribes, was selected by Seneca Gaming Corp. to lead the design of the permanent Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo.

Hnedak Bob Group was selected following an extensive search process by Seneca Gaming that began last year. The firm will be partnering with BHNT Architects of Buffalo to design the casino and entertainment complex.

Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opened as a temporary facility in July 2007 under the terms of a 2002 compact negotiated between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state. The compact allowed for casinos to be developed in Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

Seneca Buffalo Creek, located on nine acres of sovereign Indian territory just a few blocks east of First Niagara Center, has 457 slot machines. Construction on a proposed $333 million permanent casino was halted in August 2008 as the economy soured. The casino has twice been expanded and attracts more than 775,000 patrons annually.

Seneca Gaming officials said they want the permanent casino to fit in with some of its immediate neighbors, including the downtown arena and still-emerging Canalside district, along with other Buffalo waterfront developments.

"Our vision for Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is to create a destination that will complement the exciting development plans being formulated for the neighborhood surrounding the casino," said Karen Karsten, Seneca Gaming chairperson, in a prepared statement. "The Inner Harbor area appears to be at an exciting turning point and we are actively playing a role in its long-term future."

Hnedak Bob Group has worked with more than 25 Indian tribes on a variety of developments, many of which were casino projects.

Dan Elias, Hnedak Bob Group partner, said he is excited to be working against the backdrop of Buffalo's storied architectural legacy.

"We're approaching the new Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino design by layering together dynamic themes and cultural references to produce an exciting, high energy entertainment and gaming experience in downtown Buffalo," he said.

The final design should be ready later this year with construction to follow shortly afterwards.

"Along with the team at HBG, we are now going to take the time we need to determine what type of project best fits within the economic development atmosphere and, in this way, we will contribute to the larger vision for the Inner Harbor while also meeting the expectations and demands of our casino patrons," said Robert Chamberlain, Seneca Gaming senior vice president of design and construction.