Who would have thought the color of glass could cause so much trouble?
Two of Western New York’s business titans are battling over the tint of windows and delays in completing a 12-story office and hotel tower that is now several months behind schedule.
Several local real estate sources said Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs Sr. didn’t like the appearance of the horizontal lines of acua-blue windows being installed at its new corporate headquarters, and felt they didn’t match what was promised.
So Uniland Development Co. is replacing a series of glass panels on the curtain wall at 250 Delaware Ave., likely increasing the costs of the construction project.
Uniland spokeswoman Jill Pawlik said the glass panels, which looked like light blue stripes around the building, “did not meet Uniland specifications.” However, she said the work won’t cause any further holdups because the interior work can continue “without interference.”
Completion of the tower has already been delayed by the bitter winter, throwing Delaware North’s moving plans out of whack. But Pawlik denied that the problems have caused any rift between two of the area’s business titans, as some in the local building community have said.
“There is no truth to the rumors that there is any discord,” said Pawlik, Uniland’s senior marketing manager. “Absolutely we are united, developer and client, and we’re all very happy with the progress that is being made on this building.”
Uniland is constructing the building at the corner of Chippewa Street to house Delaware North, along with a proposed Westin Hotel. Delaware North plans to bring its 350 existing employees and add 65 new jobs, not including 40 jobs for the 119-room hotel and additional retail space in the complex.
The 516,200-square-foot building, which will include a five-story parking ramp in the rear with 520 parking spaces, will also host KeyCorp’s Western New York offices and a bank branch, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Both Delaware North and Key are moving from the KeyCenter at Fountain Plaza.
The tower was supposed to be ready for occupancy, at least by Delaware North, by August, to meet the expiration of its current lease at KeyCenter. Delaware North faces the possibility of additional penalty fees from its current landlord if it can’t move on time and has to extend its stay at its present building.
The Buffalo-based hospitality company is also keen to hold a grand opening to mark its 100th anniversary this year.
“Delaware North and Uniland continue to have a constructive relationship, and we are working together to determine a move-in date for Delaware North at 250 Delaware Ave. We anticipate it will be before year’s end,” Delaware North spokesman Glen White said in an email.
But sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize business relationships, say the timeframe has now been pushed back to October or even November because of the winter, despite crews working overtime, six or seven days a week. The rest of the building is slated to open later, including the Westin, which will be ready next spring.
“We did absolutely lose time due to the weather. We’re doing everything we possibly can to make up that time,” Pawlik said. “We have a very large, skilled and dedicated crew on site, so we’re doing a lot to make up for the harsh winter.”
Real estate sources said the high-level disagreements, delays, and cost-overruns of as much as $15 million had sparked tension between Delaware North and Uniland.
“I heard there’s some pretty nasty battles about whose fault it is,” said one local real estate executive. “There’s a lot on the line, a lot of money to lose.”
The sources said the arguments were big enough that lawyers were involved, and a threat of litigation existed. “Neither one of those firms are averse to litigating, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t see major litigation by the end of this project,” the source said. “It could be a battle of the titans.”
If true, that could threaten cooperation on one of downtown’s biggest development projects, as well as future partnerships between the two, including in Niagara Falls, where Uniland and Delaware North, along with Cannon Design, are partnering on the Wonder Falls redevelopment.
But Pawlik rejected the assertions of trouble in paradise. “There is no litigation. There is no threat of litigation,” she said. “Uniland has an excellent working relationship with Delaware North.”
She said she could not comment about any discussions between Delaware North and its current landlord, New York City-based Key Success LLC. “All I know is that we have worked everything out,” she said. “Everybody is very satisfied with where things are.”
And she denied any problems with Wonder Falls, saying Uniland is “busy finalizing the details of the developer agreement and we’re fielding inquiries from potential tenants.”