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Crews begin restoration work on Statler Towers; Part of landmark slated to reopen in August

The wooden boards that have covered the windows of the Statler Towers are coming down this week, a sign that the historic property is awakening from its bankruptcy-induced slumber.

The Niagara Square landmark, mothballed since January 2010, is scheduled to reopen for some business in August.

Event planners already have booked late-summer and fall dates for a variety of functions, including a national convention, said restaurateur and developer Mark Croce, the new owner of the property.

"It's going to be a great way to reshowcase the property," he said.

Uncovering the windows will lead to cleaning and restoration work that must take place before the 18-story building can start hosting events on the first floor again.

"The work symbolizes the building is coming back to life," Croce said. "We want to eliminate the blighted look immediately because it is alive and the utilities are on. The building is in private hands now, and we're going to restore it to its original grandeur."

Croce bought the Statler in March after it had been mired in protracted bankruptcy proceedings for two years. Through his Statler City LLC, Croce plans to revive the building in stages.

The first step is to address public safety issues, such as fixing leaking roofs, repairing terra cotta on the exteriors, rebuilding three elevators and updating the boiler system and flooring. He said the city has been cooperative as the work is done to bring the building up to code.

The fixes also will help the building shed its blighted image, especially when the fences and barriers around it are removed, Croce said.

After the initial renovations, the lower stories will be ready for banquets and tenants. The remaining floors will be opened as the market demands.

Workmen started uncovering the windows several days ago. The windows along Delaware Avenue and Genesee Street are uncovered.

"There are people in there cleaning the windows, so they look much better," Croce said. "We have the Mohawk and back side left to go."

He said in addition to interest from convention, wedding and other event planners, individuals and businesses have inquired about leasing offices.

"There's a lot going on; it's been a beehive of activity," he said. "It's Boardwalk in Buffalo -- the architectural gem of Western New York."

The Irish Festival, which attracts 10,000 to 12,000 people over a three-day period, will hold events at the Statler in late August, and the National Trust for Historical Preservation will hold its convention, which is expected to have 3,000 attendees, at the hotel, Croce said. Weddings are booked for the fall, and reservations are coming in for next year's wedding season, he said. Croce said Statler City hasn't embarked on a marketing effort. "We are going to start an aggressive marketing campaign next spring."

e-mail: espong@buffnews.com

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