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Cannon, a local architectural firm that recently designed convention centers in Florida and South Carolina, has been chosen by a county panel to scout sites for a $100 million facility proposed for downtown Buffalo.

"It is a milestone for us," said James P. Keane, deputy county executive and chairman of the 18-member Convention Center Task Force. "We now have a top-shelf professional consultant on board to assist us in recommending a site."

Cannon beat out three other national firms in bidding for the $70,000 contract. Its job is to help the task force meet a Dec. 1 deadline set by County Executive Gorski to recommend a site for the proposed 425,000-square-foot center.

Winning the site-selection contract also positions Cannon well for more lucrative agreements should the county proceed with the project.

"We'll do another RFP (request for proposals) for architectural services," said Richard M. Tobe, county commissioner of environment and planning, "but it's fair to say the more you know about the building, the better your chance for doing additional work."

Cannon recently designed convention centers in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Charleston, S.C.

Tobe, who led the subcommittee that recommended the consultant, said Cannon will be asked to identify potential sites based on two options: one that assumes the Hyatt Regency Buffalo will remain the primary convention hotel and another that assumes a new hotel can be attracted to downtown.

Cannon is the third consultant to be hired since discussions about building a new convention center to replace the current 110,000-square-foot facility on Franklin Street began early last year.

A study done by C.H. Johnson Consulting primarily addressed the type of convention center Buffalo could support and secondarily suggested potential sites. Another study earlier this year by ERA Economics Research Associates looked into the hotel issue.

Tobe said information from the Johnson study will be used by Cannon, but the new consultant is being asked to start over and examine all potential sites.

But the consultants specifically have been told to examine a site backed by Mayor Masiello. It is a 1 1/2 -block area north of the Statler Towers, which roughly would be bounded by Franklin Street, Delaware Avenue and Mohawk Street and extend almost to West Chippewa Street.

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