City planners got their first look Monday night at the Pearl Street Hotel, the largest project ever proposed by Carl and William Paladino, who hope to add to the hospitality growth in downtown Buffalo with a 12-story hotel at Franklin and West Tupper streets.
The Paladinos’ Ellicott Development is proposing to spend $70 million to $75 million to build a mixed-use tower on a 100-space surface parking lot, with a three-floor hotel, 28 apartments, a floor of office space and a six-level parking ramp. The 300,000-square-foot building would be connected to the 70,000-square-foot Buffalo Christian Center at 500 Pearl St., which Ellicott bought in 2014.
Plans call for a ground-floor entrance, with 12,000 square feet of retail space at West Tupper and Franklin, with more retail facing Franklin. Six levels of parking with 390 spaces accessed through a ground-level ramp would be followed by the 28,000-square-foot office level.
Above the office level, the shape of the 151-foot-tall building would step back 25 to 30 feet, creating rooftop space as terraces for apartment residents. The tower would have two floors of 14 apartments each and then three floors of hotel rooms that could total 109 to 112, depending on the final layout.
The main lobby for the complex, as well as the lounge area, cafe, and banquet or meeting spaces, would all be housed in the Christian Center building, which will also house a pool and spa area in the basement, said Thomas M. Fox, director of development for Ellicott Development. The existing building would also contain any other “back-of-house” functions. Road Less Traveled Productions would remain a tenant in the Forbes Theatre space at the south end of the Christian Center building.
All told, the project is the company’s biggest venture, more than twice the size of the $28 million Mosey on Main Street in Williamsville, which includes a parking ramp, the 120-room Wyndham Garden hotel and 33 apartments.
“It’s really a great in-fill project, in an area that’s dominated by surface projects,” Fox said. “To do something of this scale is really exciting for us.”
The design by Kideney Architects, in the works for more than five months, envisions a “modern, edgy” exterior of the black, gray and white building, with a mixture of precast concrete walls, curtain glass, perforated metal panels and screening materials of varying textures. That’s designed to create “unique lighting effects” at night for the upper floors, while also helping to disguise the look of the lower parking levels, Fox said.
The project includes two driving entrances into the complex and one exit, as well as pedestrian access from Franklin, Tupper and Pearl. A plaza area, porte-cochere and covered walkway are also featured, along with a dedicated elevator for the apartment levels, with a lobby off Franklin. Two levels of parking will be reserved for apartment tenants.
Plans call for starting work in April. The project still needs two variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as a routine environmental review, so the Planning Board could not act on the application Monday. But members applauded the project nevertheless. “It’s a very cool looking building,” said board member Cynthia A. Schwartz. “I love the effort to make the parking ramp structurally interesting. Seeing part of the sea of parking turned into what it should be, an urban dense corner, is exciting.”
This would be the 10th hotel for Ellicott, which also has three or four more in the planning stages, including the Carlo project, slated to have some hotel rooms, at the waterfront. The developer operates eight of the nine hotels, while Benderson Development Co.’s Buffalo Lodging division operates the last one.
Fox said Ellicott had originally planned to convert the Buffalo Christian Center building into apartments, with some commercial or retail space, but then discovered “a lot of historic features with the property that we wanted to reuse.” So the developer is working with the National Park Service and state Historic Preservation Office on a historic restoration as part of the project.