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Hyatt closing could mean a chance to restore Genesee Street

Taxpayers have paid subsidies for hotel
Posted at 3:56 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 17:03:14-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Hyatt flag will soon be gone from downtown Buffalo, but preservationist Tim Tielman views the change as an opportunity to re-calibrate a building that was formerly called the Genesee Building for pedestrians.

“The Genesee Building has lost its former dominance,” Tielman said. “It’s a beautiful building.”

After World War II, in the block surrounding what is now the Hyatt Regency, there were 463 ground-floor retail businesses, Tielman said.

Grand buildings were demolished all across downtown Buffalo following the war, but the Genesee survived. In the 1980s, the city abandoned a part of Genesee Street so the Hyatt’s owners could build a glass atrium.

That move, along with the construction of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, inflicted a devastating blow to the city’s radial street grid, Tielman said, cutting off pedestrian traffic in the heart of downtown.

“We can’t see what’s beyond this atrium here on Main Street,” Tielman said. “We don’t know what’s there. And for a lot of people, it’s like, ehh, I can’t see anything there, and they turn around, so it kills pedestrian flow.”

Tielman doubts Snyder Corp. or any future owners would simply give back the original street to the city. But he hopes the loss of the Hyatt name could spur a re-consideration of pedestrian improvements on that stretch of Main Street.

It’s not as if the public hasn’t tried to help the Hyatt avoid its fate.

A review of Buffalo News stories and public records shows the hotel received millions in public subsidies since it opened in the mid-1980s.

-- A $15 million renovation, unveiled in 2009, included $5.1 Million in state grants and $1.1 Million in tax breaks from the erie county industrial development agency.

An article in The News from that year said the Hyatt “has long struggled to turn a profit since first opening in 1984.”

-- In 1999, a $3 million renovation included sales tax exemptions that were estimated at $224,000.

But the hotel faced money problems stretching back to the 80s, when it escaped foreclosure as a coalition of public and private interests including the Snyder family cobbled together the funds to make it all work..

Hotel officials said they would try to attract another hotel brand to the building. Paul Snyder III did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story. Neither did Michael DeGeorge, spokesman for Mayor Byron Brown.