Mark D. Croce’s plans to turn part of Franklin Street into a “restaurant row” are advancing with his two latest projects for a new sushi-themed restaurant and a pizza-and-wings place.
Croce is seeking approval for his plan to renovate and add a single-story, 1,918-square-foot addition to the former home of his Buckin’ Buffalo Saloon at 294 Franklin.
The veteran restaurateur wants to replace that now-closed business with a new full-service, eat-in pizzeria, including a 150-seat dining room and a full bar. The proposal is on the menu for approval by the Buffalo Planning Board today, along with three other restaurant projects.
It follows his application and approval by city planners a month ago to convert a 3,200-square-foot walk-up office building at 284 Franklin into a sushi restaurant by adding a cooler, a rear stairwell, a mezzanine and a patio. That building is just in front of his Buffalo Chop House restaurant.
Together, they will add to the dining options across the street from the soon-to-open Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, as well as his holdings on the Franklin strip such as the Chop House, D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub and Laughlin’s.
“I pretty much own almost every building on that street,” Croce said. “Years ago, I envisioned that section of Franklin being Buffalo’s restaurant row, and now it’s coming to fruition.”
Croce said he wants to create a “destination and a cluster, almost a food court” for all the new hotel guests who would be coming to that part of town as a result of several new hotels opening up. “Everybody wants the local food, the steakhouse, to eat Buffalo fare,” he said. “When people are in from out of town, they want great chicken wings.”
So far, he said, he has spoken with the owners of Bocce Club Pizza, Bella Pizza and La Nova Pizza, as well as others, and hopes to make a decision on who will operate the restaurant within 30 days so he can “fast-track” the plan for an opening in early spring.
City planners last month unanimously approved Croce’s other restaurant, which he said will feature a “nice variety of food to complement the sushi.” He’s adding a second level to that building, with an indoor and outdoor patio with heated floors that can be used all year. A cantilevered deck will cover the parking lot.
The projects will likely entail more than $2 million in investment, Croce said. Meanwhile, he is also turning his attention to his Curtiss Building at Franklin and West Huron Street, where he plans to start construction in the spring on a boutique hotel and a Mediterranean- or Italian-style restaurant. The project calls for 68 upscale hotel rooms, with “very high-end amenities.” The hotel will feature a revolving bar, a three-meal restaurant, a lounge, a rooftop patio and dining area, he said.
The Curtiss Hotel will be independently operated, although it will be linked to a national hotel brand for centralized reservations. Croce would not identify the brand yet, but said it’s “very well established.”
“This product will be head and shoulders above anything else being introduced in downtown Buffalo,” he said.
The project is being designed by architects Young & Wright, with R&P Oak Hill as the project manager. Plans call for both the hotel and restaurant to open in the spring of 2015.