If developer Carl Paladino is correct, people who care about development in downtown Niagara Falls should get a pleasant gift before New Year's Day: the chance to watch the rebirth of the United Office Building begin.
A massive crane will rear up beside the 1929 Art Deco landmark, and lift a new elevator motor to its pinnacle.
"I'd like to start work in the next few weeks," Paladino, whose Ellicott Development is one of Buffalo's largest landlords, said Tuesday. Most of the $6 million project will be financed by the state pension system, he said.
Doubters have criticized the pace of the project but they don't see all the work that took place out of view, Paladino said.
"This community has a long history of failed promises," he said. "This is not going to be one of them."
Nearly a year ago, Paladino signed a deal with USA Niagara Development, the state's Niagara Falls development office, to bring the United Office Building back to life. He announced plans to convert the building, empty for decades, into luxury apartments and office space, but regulatory issues, negotiations over parking space and engineering solutions took up more time than expected.
"When it comes to the renovation and reuse of existing structures, it's complicated and it takes time," Paladino said.
His company learned about those complications during the process of converting the former L.L. Berger department store in Buffalo into 29 high-end apartments, Paladino said.
So far, his company has spent more than $500,000 on the building, he said. Some $500,000 worth of replacement windows have been ordered, he said, as well as the new $350,000 elevator.
Plans for the United Office Building call for 56,000 square feet of residential space, with apartments ranging from 1,100 to 2,000 square feet. They would rent for $1,200 to $2,200 a month. There also will be about 20,000 square feet of office space on the first five floors, at about $13.95 a square foot, Paladino said.
Paladino predicted the United Office Building will be completed in a year.