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Editorial: Trico building finally on the road to reuse

It’s been a longer time than most people anticipated, but the good news arrived last week: The sale of the historic Trico building on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has been completed. Up next, if plans work out, is the sprawling building’s conversion into apartments, a hotel and commercial space.

The mammoth structure has defied efforts to return it to productive use. Krog Corp. has worked diligently to overcome the obstacles, requiring larger public subsidies than originally expected, but ultimately working to the point where it now – finally – owns the structure.

The building’s challenges are reminiscent of the conundrum facing Statler City, the former hotel that closed on Niagara Square. Its prime location demanded action, but few wanted the down-and-out dowager, and the cost of demolishing it was prohibitive. The problem was finally resolved when a Buffalo developer, Mark Croce, took on the project, supported by public subsidies. In that tower structure, he is making progress.

The Trico building isn’t in quite the same prominent spot as the Statler, which faces City Hall, but with the Medical Campus growing as fast as it is, the structure sits on valuable land where thousands of employees, patients and students will gather daily. And like the Statler, the costs of demolition would have been astronomical.

Though anyone might have wished the public costs in various incentives weren’t necessary, in the end the public will be best served by a productive reuse of the building at 791 Washington St. That’s true for several reasons, including the lack of any practical alternative.

Mayor Byron W. Brown was unstinting in his praise for Krog  Corp., of Orchard Park, and if persistence makes the difference, the company has demonstrated that it has a good chance of succeeding. Owner Peter Krog has kept at this project for two years and is now in a position to move forward.

“It’s been a long hard struggle,” Krog said. “Fortunately, we’ve had the fortitude to be able to stay with it and see it to fruition, and now it’s a big milestone for us to be closing on the property today and now definitely we’ll be moving ahead full speed.”

Plans for the building include carving an atrium into the building and demolishing about 120,000 square feet along Ellicott Street, reducing the building size to just under 500,000 square feet. Plans are to rebuild three top floors to create a dramatic entry for car traffic into an interior courtyard.

Other plans include a 120-room extended-stay hotel, up to 185 apartments of various configurations, 35,000 square feet of Class A office space, 86,000 square feet of additional commercial space and 12,000 square feet of retail or food and beverage space.

No doubt, there will be additional complications, since even the simplest of home projects always seems to present unexpected obstacles.

But there is reason for optimism. Krog plainly came to do a job. His success here will be a feather in his cap and in Buffalo’s.

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