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Abandoned Dunlop offices on Grand Island could become hotel

The long-vacant former Dunlop Tire Corp. headquarters building on Grand Island near the north I-190 bridges could be converted into a Holiday Inn Express – if the veteran hotel operator behind the plan can get tax breaks to help defray costs.

Jayesh Patel, CEO of Rudra Management and Rosewood Hotels, said he is considering a $5.3 million renovation of the derelict former office building into a limited-service hotel with 75 to 90 rooms, plus a breakfast bar area, lobby and two business meeting rooms.

Details are still in flux, and he stressed that the project is not yet definite, as there are “many components still in the works,” he said. Firmer plans may still be a month away, he said.

In particular, he said he intends to submit paperwork next month to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency seeking tax incentives or other assistance in reusing the neglected building at 2761 Long Road, widely viewed as an eyesore visible from the nearby interstate highway. Plans also would have to be filed and approved by the town of Grand Island.

“If they all get on board, then yes, we would like to bring life to this building,” Patel wrote in an email. Construction could begin by November and be completed within 10 months.

Patel bought the 72,600-square-foot building in January 2014 from James Metz’s JSJ Holdings, paying $850,000 to the owner of Beauty Pools in Lancaster. Metz had taken over the 28.8-acre property, then run-down and covered in grafitti, after repossessing it in a foreclosure from former partners who defaulted on a mortgage he held. Metz had planned to spend more than $2 million to restore the building and market it as Gateway Center, but those plans never succeeded.

The three-story white building with a slatted facade was the former North American headquarters of Dunlop Tire, but hasn’t been occupied since 1993. It was originally built in the 1960s for Hooker Chemical & Plastics Corp., but Dunlop took it over in the 1970s.

It includes large floor plates of 24,200 square feet each, plus an indoor parking garage, and had been marketed as either office space or an apartment conversion. Patel originally had said he expected a mixed-use project, with retail and offices on the first floor and residential space on the upper two. Significant work was expected just to fix environmental and infrastructure problems.

“We are pleased that the Patels look like they are interested in developing it,” said Grand Island Town Supervisor Mary Cooke. “It’s such an eyesore, and we are hoping that the Patels are the ones that can put it together.”

Eastern Hospitality Advisors of Buffalo, a hotel construction firm, has already been hired as the construction manager for the project. Douglas Vanstrom said the building’s exterior look will change. “It’s going to not really look like that,” he said. “It’s going to look more like you would expect to see a Holiday Inn Express look.”

Cooke said Patel’s firm has been working to remove asbestos from the building, a giant task given the building’s size. However, most of that work has been inside, so local residents and observers wouldn’t notice it from the outside. “It’s the nature of the beast,” she said. “A whole lot of time and money is being spent, but you don’t get to see results.”

She said designers representing Patel have approached town officials with some general site questions, but nothing specific regarding his plans.

“It’s such a prominent building. Everyone gets to see it, and it’s a source of consternation for many of our residents and visitors,” she said. “So I’m cautiously optimistic that this is going to turn out and be a very positive thing very soon.”

Patel’s firm now operates more than two dozen hotels in Western New York, Rochester, and Syracuse, as well as in Bradford, Pa., Georgia and Baltimore.

It’s also affiliated with four restaurants and lounges in Williamsville, Buffalo, Batavia and Hamburg.

Patel recently acquired the University Manor Inn and the Boulevard Inn, both in Amherst, and is proposing a four-story Hampton Inn on Camp Road in Hamburg, at the site of the Hideaway Bar & Restaurant and next to a Quality Inn and Super 8 at 5440 Camp Road.