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Delaware North will bring in Westin to downtown Buffalo

Delaware North has confirmed that its planned new hotel in downtown Buffalo will be part of the high-end Westin chain.

That will bring one of the world’s most elite hotel chains to Western New York for the first time, and significantly raise the bar on the region’s growing hospitality industry.

“I think it’s a pretty exciting announcement,” said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. “It’s one of the upper-upscale class properties in the Starwood collection, so it’s great to have Westin here as part of the Buffalo hotel product.”

The new Westin Buffalo will occupy the first five floors of the 12-story hotel and office tower that Uniland Development Co. is building at 250 Delaware Ave. to house Delaware North’s new global corporate headquarters. It’s slated to open in June 2016.

“It’s bringing a first-class brand to the marketplace, which will be positioned at the top of the hotel market,” said Ken Leone, vice president of lodging for Delaware North, which will own and operate the hotel.

It will feature 118 guest rooms and eight luxury suites, plus a 2,400-square-foot WestinWORKOUT fitness center, 4,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, and a 6,000-square-foot outdoor patio at the rear of the lobby level, between the hotel and the five-story parking ramp.

It will also include a still-to-be-named restaurant operated by Delaware North subsidiary Patina Restaurant Group, with a bar and 24-hour grab-and-go section offering sandwiches, pastries, coffee and other beverages. Leone said Patina is “working on bringing one of their branded restaurants in,” but it’s still under development. A job posting early this month cited plans for a “Neopolitan-themed Italian restaurant.”

The announcement marks one of the last pieces to be finalized in the $110 million mixed-use project, which replaced the historic Delaware Court building at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa. The 516,200-square-foot facility includes 193,000 square feet of office space, 18,000 square feet of retail space, and a 520-car garage.

Delaware North, which is relocating several blocks from its longtime home at KeyCenter at Fountain Plaza, will take up most of the building’s office space on the sixth through 12th floors, along with KeyBank, which just announced its own plans to also move from its namesake building.

The new hotel comes at a time when the hotel market in Western New York has seen an explosion of new construction and development from the city to the suburbs, including the new Marriott Buffalo HarborCenter, the Courtyard by Marriott at One Canalside, the Embassy Suites at Avant, and a host of others in downtown Buffalo, near the airport, near the malls and in the Village of Williamsville. In fact, the supply of rooms locally grew last year at the fastest pace in five years, according to hospitality research firm STR Inc., formerly Smith Travel Research.

“I think the market is changing, so that played a big role in the confidence level of being able to bring a first-class, hotel,” Leone said.

And it marks a big change for a market that has 157 hotels and 14,000 guest rooms ranging from the low-end to upscale brands like Marriott and Hyatt Regency – but not a single luxury brand like Westin.

“It just appears to me that there’s the sense that the market’s on the upswing and there’s demand to satisfy the supply,” said Bobbie Bowers, senior vice president of operations at Nashville-based STR, a hospitality research company.

It also puts new pressure on the other high-end hotels that are likely rivals for business.