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Termini wants Hotel Lafayette to be 'one-stop' wedding site ; To offer food, baking, flowers and rooms

The Hotel Lafayette in downtown Buffalo will become a "one-stop" wedding destination with a banquet facility, bakery, flower shop and hotel rooms, under plans outlined Monday by developer Rocco Termini before the local Empire Zone board.

Termini, through his Signature Development Buffalo, has previously disclosed general plans to spend $35 million to convert the six-story, 367-room hotel into a mixed-use development, including 115 market-rate apartments, a hotel, a banquet facility and commercial space. But further details have not been available until now.

The developer's project calls for the landmark hotel's first floor to include a revived Lafayette Tap Room, a flower shop and a bakery, while upper floors will house a boutique hotel.

The owners of the Pearl Street Brewery will run the Tap Room, under its longtime name, and expand it to 15,000 square feet, with 35 employees.

Woyshner's Flower Shop in Lackawanna will open a 3,000-square-foot store on the first floor, with seven jobs. The family-owned and operated Woyshner's will still maintain its existing main location at 910 Ridge Road.

Butterwood Desserts, renowned for its cakes, will move from 1863 Davis Road in West Falls to downtown, where it will do all its baking in the Lafayette kitchen. The bakery will take up 8,000 square feet and employ 35 people.

Hospitality executive Mark Hamister will operate a 34-room boutique hotel on the second floor, with 20 employees. It will include a banquet facility.

"What we're trying to do is make it a one-stop shopping for weddings," Termini said. "You can get your hotel rooms, your banquet facilities, your wedding cake, your flowers, everything at one stop."

Termini said he is also holding talks with the operators of two additional restaurants to occupy other space. "We're going to have a lot of retail within Lafayette," he said.

Termini last year agreed to buy the 106-year-old hotel -- designed by Louise Bethune and once considered one of the nation's most opulent -- for an undisclosed price.

He is seeking to have the dilapidated building designated as a national historic landmark and is counting on state and federal historic tax credits to make the project work. He hopes to begin work in the fall and finish in 18 months.

Monday, he went before the local Empire Zone board, during perhaps its last meeting, and obtained its backing for the bakery, flower shop, Lafayette Tap Room and hotel to qualify for Empire Zone benefits.

But he lamented the state's plan to end the Empire Zone program, despite acknowledging its faults, and to replace it with a lower-funded Excelsior Jobs program.

"There were problems with the Empire Zone, but you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. You try to fix the problems," he said. "You don't decrease the amount of help you're giving to small businesses. You increase it."

Termini said the Excelsior Jobs benefits are generally for larger companies, not small businesses, and will mostly benefit "high-tech and suburban business parks that don't need any help."

"It really signals the death knell for downtown development. It's been a tremendous help to everybody, and now we're not going to have it anymore," he said in an interview. "It'll make it a lot more difficult to close the gap and attract retail tenants that we're trying to bring downtown. Without the Empire Zone benefits, those [new] tenants would not have come downtown."

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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