By Paul L. Snyder Sr.
I am writing in response to a recent article in The Buffalo News in which Peter Hunt suggested that there is no first-class hotel in Buffalo and promoted his idea to move our convention center into One Seneca Tower.
We invest in a convention center to attract out-of-town groups of guests who will spend their money for hotels, restaurants, night clubs and theater, etc. The convention center needs to be located in the center of the central business district, within walking distance of most attractions and hotels. Parking is critical to regional conventions; guests want to park their cars one time during the two- to three-day convention visit.
A convention center located on our waterfront would be a major mistake. It is not centrally located and such a move would be a financial disaster to the dozens of owners who have invested in the present convention center location.
In addition, waterfront development should add to and complement the existing central business district, not compete to relocate existing facilities. We need to resolve and improve existing problems, not solve one problem by creating additional problems.
Hunt has managed One Seneca Tower since 2005. Occupancy in the building since that time has declined from approximately 100 percent to the current 5 percent. During this same period, dozens of owners have invested in hotels, restaurants, retail, etc. in the existing convention area. Revenues and occupancies have improved. Is it really fair that these same owners should suffer a major financial loss because Hunt wants to move the convention center to his 95 percent vacant tower?
Buffalo is a smaller city; we must work together in an effort to improve it. We must stop using public funds to move existing facilities from one part of the city to a different part of the city. These moves always create financial problems for someone. I suggest we all get together and help Hunt find new tenants for his office building.
Most of us were aware several years ago that HSBC might relocate – plenty of time for Hunt and the tower owners to find new office tenants. There is a point that a lower office rent is very attractive. Buffalo is a low-cost, back-office labor market. Buffalo has a good supply of good people looking for jobs. There must be a good organization looking for large office space at low rentals in an excellent, large office building.
Buffalo does not need a new convention center. We do need to renovate the existing one. There are at least eight new hotels in various stages of development, an increase of approximately 35 percent of new bedrooms in Buffalo. We do not need any additional hotels. We need to improve and expand our central business district.
Paul L. Snyder Sr. is chairman of Snyder Corp., which built and owns the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo.