Say hello to Hotel Henry.
That’s the new name for the hotel, special events venue and “urban resort conference center” that the owners of The Mansion on Delaware Avenue are planning at the Richardson Olmsted Complex.
The long-awaited new brand, unveiled Monday morning by The Mansion Group, harkens back to architect Henry Hobson (H.H.) Richardson – who designed the red sandstone former mental health asylum site.
The companion restaurant and food-service operation, dubbed “100 Acres, The Kitchens at Hotel Henry,” is a tribute to the original 100 acres of land that Frederick Law Olmsted, in his master plan for Buffalo, had set aside at the property for farming.
Together, the concepts are designed to bring together old and new, for business and leisure purposes, with a focus on attracting conventions, meetings, weddings and other special events.
“That name Henry had such a wonderful ring to it. It was contemporary and yet classic, and that’s what this hotel is about. So Hotel Henry seemed perfect,” said Mansion Group partner Diana Principe.
The new brand, developed through market research with the help of local advertising and marketing firms Block Club and 19 IDEAS, will be an independent “original-concept” hotel, not linked with any national hospitality chain. That’s more difficult and potentially riskier for a hotelier, since national brands provide access to centralized reservations, marketing and online exposure.
But that’s not new for the Mansion Group, which started the unflagged Mansion on Delaware in 2001 amid doubts by wary observers that it would work. It has proved otherwise over the last 13 years by drawing national and even international travelers. And both the Hotel@the Lafayette and the planned Curtiss Hotel by Mark Croce are also independent.
“We know that an independent brand can work very well here in Buffalo,” Principe said.
Principe and others stress that both the hotel and the restaurant will be unique, with features that are not typical of most hospitality experiences. They’re also more integrated and overlapping in nature. But many of the other details, including final prices, are still vague, as there are still 20 months to go before it opens.
“What we wanted to do was get our initial brand announcement out there,” she said. “Over 20 months … we’ll really start telling the story of this hotel and its opening.”
The branding announcement marks another step in the $69 million effort to redevelop the imposing facility, whose majestic construction and twin turreted and ornamental towers dominate the vacant property on Forest Avenue. Initially driven by preservationists and community leaders, and now led by a nonprofit board, the multiyear initiative envisions a combined hospitality and heritage facility in the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, now a national historic landmark. Officials formally broke ground last month.
The hotel, slated to open in fall 2016, will feature 88 overnight rooms – mostly regular rooms with double or king beds, as well as five suites. The main entrance will be on the north side of the building, with the lobby, public areas, lounge seating and meeting rooms on the second floor, and the guest rooms in the two wings on both the second and third floors.
Special-events accommodations for between 50 and 500 guests will offer a blend of “both modern and classic” spaces for “a distinct urban-Buffalo experience,” according to a news release.
Principe said the special events or meeting space, totaling 20,000 square feet inside the building, will be adaptable to fit various configurations and needs, and all of the technology in the entire facility, such as video conferencing, will be managed from a single control center.
The venue also will use a sophisticated studio broadcasting system, allowing live telecasts of events, meetings or conferences to participants anywhere in the world, she explained. “It extends the number of people who can attend,” she said.
The 100 Acres restaurant, which Principe says will be a “culinary experience,” will be primarily on the first floor, on the south side of the building. It will offer a common menu at multiple settings throughout the building – all with servers walking around – as well as “grab-and-go” options for those who want to eat outside.
Large-scale social events, too, can use various spaces at Hotel Henry, including not just inside the building but also the Olmsted gardens on the South Lawn, she said.
“Hotel Henry really imagines special events in a very contemporary or new way,” she said. “We want to try to use all the spaces.”