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Despite lawsuit, Paladino pledges to build Court Street office tower

Developer Carl P. Paladino is vowing to start construction of a new office tower on Court Street in downtown Buffalo next spring, a project first proposed in 1988.

"A number of things have stood in the way over the years, but it's still one of the best sites in Buffalo and we're absolutely going forward with it," Paladino said.

The $45 million project calls for construction of an 11-story, 335,000-square-foot office tower on vacant land at 50 Court St., between Pearl and Franklin streets. When built, it will will rank as one of the largest office complexes built in downtown Buffalo in the past 25 years.

But Paladino's construction promise notwithstanding, a lawsuit still stands between the developer and a groundbreaking.

Main Place-Liberty Group General Manager Patrick Hotung is suing the City of Buffalo over the price it charged Paladino's Ellicott Development Co. for a parcel of land that is part of the project site. The case, which will be argued before the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester today, claims the city was wrong in consummating a $700,000 land sale deal with Ellicott, ignoring Main Place-Liberty's 11th hour, $1.25 million offer.

Hotung's group, which owns the Liberty Building and the Main Place Mall complex, put in the last-minute offer saying it wanted the city-owned land to build a 600-car parking ramp. While the lawsuit was rejected at the State Supreme Court level, Hotung maintains his claims have merit.

"I offered $1,275,000 and the city sold it to Carl for pennies on the dollar. That's wrong and the deal should be overturned," Hotung said.

Paladino, whose 2006 land sale and development agreement with the city includes several interim deadlines to ensure the tower gets built, has been unable to start construction because of the Hotung suit. An earlier unsuccessful challenge by Hotung citing environmental concerns previously slowed the project's progress.

"This is America, so anybody can sue anybody," said Paladino, who is also a lawyer. "But this lawsuit is worthless and I am confident the Appellate Division will toss it."

The 50 Court Street tower project has its roots in a building Paladino and then-co-developer Frank McGuire first proposed in 1988. Over the years, the structure has changed size, style and uses, including one plan that included a hotel.

As currently designed, it would be a Class A office tower with 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot floor plates. Parking for 150 vehicles would be integrated into the ground level of the structure.

Paladino, who said he is in "final negotiations" with a tenant to lease two floors of the building, said it will be ready for occupancy approximately 12 months after the start of construction.

Due to the lawsuit-tied delay to the construction start, Ellicott is asking the Buffalo Planning Board for a six-month extension to the site plan approval it granted in 2005. The board, which will review the request on Dec. 4, granted a similar extension in 2006 linked the ongoing litigation.


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