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Editorial: Contractor dispute is another setback for AM&A's

The contractor dispute delaying the former AM&A’s department store renovation should only be a bump in what has already been a long road to recovery for a prime downtown location.
We hope.

Grand ambitions for the $70 million project to transform the enormous structure into a 300-room hotel that will be a magnet for Chinese tourists may have once seemed, well, ambitious. But as the Buffalo revival continues to gain steam and new and interesting pieces have been added to the landscape along Main Street and Canalside, the vision seemed to become less unlikely.

The AM&A’s dispute involves Tristate Cleaning Solutions Inc. of Queens, hired last year by Landco H&L, an investor group from Queens and China. The job assignment: clean up asbestos and other environmental contaminants inside the vacant store at 377 Main St.

And then the snag.

The firm started last July and had completed work on several floors of the 10-story building, then stopped work on Feb. 23. Tristate officials say the investor group failed to keep up payments and now plans to take Landco H&L to court and “put a lien on the building.” Tristate owner George Kay said his company is still owed $680,000.

John Schenne, a Buffalo engineer who has worked on the project and serves as a local spokesman for the foreign investor group, denied that there are any issues with financing. He pinned the problem on Tristate’s job performance. As reported in The News, Landco H&L is taking bids for a different abatement contractor but has yet to select one. Meanwhile, the state Department of Labor and Buffalo’s Building Department have taken notice of the situation.

No one wants to see this outside-the-box project fail. Buffalonians carry fond memories of the former Adam Meldrum & Anderson Co. department store building. It sits in the heart of downtown and has been an eyesore for years, vacant and deteriorating. Until Landco H&L came along.

Plans initially involved a large hotel for Asian tour groups visiting Niagara Falls. It has now been branded as the Wyndham Buffalo Hotel, with two restaurants, one American and one Chinese, on the first floor. It also calls for 40,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space on the second floor. There are hotel amenities, retail space, a 10-story atrium and six apartments on top for hotel management.

The project would fill in a blighted block of Main Street, and mean jobs at the hotel and at companies serving it. It is too important to be left languishing for long.

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