Hamister pulls back design for Falls project - The Buffalo News

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Hamister pulls back design for Falls project

NIAGARA FALLS – The Hamister Group will fly the Hyatt Place flag at its $25 million downtown development, though a detailed design for the mixed-use project has not been finalized.

The developer completed a deal Tuesday to secure a Hyatt Place flag for the hotel portion of the project, and withdrew designs previously submitted in order to alter them to meet requirements of the franchise agreement, officials told the city Planning Board Wednesday night.

The Hamister Group plans to resubmit its designs to be considered by the Planning Board near the end of July, said spokeswoman Andrea Czopp.

Hamister officials were noncommittal about project details and what may change after consultation with Hyatt officials both during and after Wednesday’s meeting, saying they intend to have all the details by the end of next month. The Planning Board, whose approval is required, does not meet in August.

What had been submitted to the city called for an eight-story structure at 310 Rainbow Blvd. Early renderings and previous public announcements depicted a five-story building.

“They came with some caveats that are different than what is in the package we submitted last month,” said Josh Klotzbach, the Hamister Group’s director of construction.

Klotzbach would not say to what extent the proposed building height may change after the review.

Construction on the project, which also will include 24 apartments and ground-floor retail space, is expected to begin next spring, as opposed to in October as previously envisioned.

The plans previously submitted to the city called for 146 hotel rooms, with the 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space to be located on the Old Falls Street side of the building, with a porte cochere on the other side of the building facing O’Laughlin Drive accompanied by a courtyard and several short-term parking spaces. The previous plans also placed the apartments above the retail space, overlooking Old Falls Street.

The Hamister Group has been in preliminary talks with some local restaurants about locating on the first floor of the project, but no tenant or tenants have been finalized, Czopp said.

Plans also called for some balconies to overhang city property, requiring the approval by the city of an encroachment on the city’s right-of-way.

Planning Board member Randal S. Ubriaco said his only concern about what he saw so far was there were no plans for a covered walkway to connect an upper floor of the hotel with the Rainbow Centre parking ramp across the street, which had been included in a previous rendering of the project.

Building such a walkway is not financially feasible and is not being considered, Klotzbach said.

The architect on the project, Jonathan H. Morris of Carmina Wood Morris, said the proposed square footage of the apartments has not been finalized.

Under a development agreement signed last year – which will see the Hamister Group receive a $2.75 million state grant – the project will have access to between 75 and 225 parking spaces in the city-owned ramp at a cost of $40 per space for the first five years of the deal, after which payments will increase by 5 percent. The city will have the right to adjust fees after the 10th year of the agreement.

Hamister officials, who also are developing a Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Buffalo, said they don’t believe the time required for this review will ultimately hinder the project.

“I think a month is absolutely reasonable to have a better idea and a better sense of what Hyatt Place wants and what we need to do to make this project as close to what we’ve already tried to present as possible,” Czopp said.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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