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Eyesore near Medical Campus will be razed, replaced; Motor lodge from '60s is giving way to hotel and office complex

An unsightly Main Street building near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will be demolished and replaced with a 60-room hotel and office complex, developers told the city Planning Board on Tuesday.

A Sleep Inn would replace the Buffalo Tourist Lodge at 1159 Main St., between Dodge and Best streets.

The project would cost up to $4 million and would include 7,700 square feet of commercial space that will be marketed to the medical community.

The Planning Board indicated that it will likely approve the site plan after environmental reviews and minor design revisions are submitted later this month.

Fouad Bou-Jaude owns the Buffalo Tourist Lodge, and he told planning officials that business has been declining. He has been working with the Sleep Inn chain to develop a three-story lodging facility. Sleep Inn is a division of Choice Hotels.

The Buffalo Tourist Lodge has had its share of troubles over the years, including reports of prostitution and drug activity, said Planning Board Vice Chairwoman Cynthia A. Schwartz.

"This has been a very problematic location on Main Street for quite some time," said Schwartz, who sought assurances that the new facility will be better managed.

Developers said that the motel franchise sets "very high standards" and that operations will definitely improve. They said Sleep Inns are comparable to Holiday Inns.

"Things will change. They have to," said Lowell B. Dewey of C&S Companies, the project's civil engineer.

Frank A. Manuele, a former city planning director who sits on the Planning Board, said he's pleased to hear that the existing lodge will be torn down. "This has to be the worst example of 1964 architecture we've ever seen," he said.

While board members suggested slight changes in signs and landscaping, they praised the overall concept.

"I can't imagine doing anything that is worse than what's on the site now," Manuele said.

Silvestri Architects is designing the complex. While the hotel will be three stories, the office space will be located in a two-story wing of the building.

"We're trying to bring in some medical groups and doctors' offices, those type of things," said Jacob Flitton, an associate with Silvestri.

Flitton said neighboring property owners reacted positively to the plans at a recent community meeting.

The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, Council member from the Ellicott District that includes the Main-Best section, said he was pleased to hear that developers revised plans to include lighting that will enhance the appearance of the complex.

"I encouraged them to include a wow factor," Pridgen said.

While the Medical Campus is centered in the High Street neighborhood to the north of the proposed hotel, board Chairman James K. Morrell noted that the campus continues to expand its footprint. Morrell said the building planned at Main near Dodge would become the entrance to the Medical Campus.

Developers are hoping to complete the project in one to two years.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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