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Work to begin on former AM&A’s building in Buffalo

Work to clean up asbestos and other environmental contamination in the former AM&A’s Department Store building on Main Street will start in the first quarter of next year, now that electrical service has been restored to the building, the project’s local engineer said.

Landco H&L, a Chinese investor group based in Queens, bought the 10-story vacant store complex last year for $2.775 million. It plans to convert the 375,000-square-foot building at 377 Main St. into a 300-room hotel for international tourists visiting Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

The ambitious project, expected to cost between $50 million and $70 million, would also include two restaurants, a 10-story atrium, 6,000 to 8,000 square feet of retail space, a large pool and spa in the basement, and a second-floor medical clinic, as well as six one-bedroom apartments on the top floor, reserved for hotel staff.

The project has received approval from the Buffalo Planning Board. The goal was to complete work by December 2016, but the project has been delayed for months by the need for cleanup and the lack of electricity to do so. National Grid officials had been working on a plan, but were concerned because the building’s deteriorating condition and years of neglect had created conditions that could be dangerous for their workers.

John Schenne, an engineer from East Aurora who is working with the current owners, said Monday night that temporary power was finally restored, enabling four to five months of remediation to start.

Demolition and construction work itself would follow.

The investor group, led by a woman named Lily Li, has not responded to requests for comment or interviews to elaborate on the plans.

Schenne, who has worked on concept plans for the AM&A’s building in the past, said the group has deep pockets and is linked to a major real estate investment company in China, although he did not know that firm’s name.

City officials say they have met Li and discussed the project with her.

The investment group is registered to an address in Flushing, Queens, that is also listed as the home of several other entities, including Rusco & Li Construction Services, L&H Resort Systems LP and Eiffel Resort and Convention LLC.