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Soft opening turns into sellout for Curtiss Hotel

After eight years of planning and work, Mark Croce capped off his $24 million conversion of a former office building at Franklin and West Huron streets with the sold-out opening of the 67-room boutique Curtiss Hotel on Friday.

The hotel opened for registration at 3 p.m. Friday, and the restaurant opened at 5 p.m. Over the course of the weekend, Croce estimated more than 800 people came through the hotel – including the restaurant, bar and rooms. He said he brought in six bartenders at one point Saturday night to handle the crowd.

Croce said he intended to do a soft opening, with an estimated 40 to 50 people, but instead saw the dining room sell out as they finished last-minute checkups.

The new hotel, with its white terra cotta facade, features a Roman bath and spa extending from inside the building to the outside, as well as an expanded rooftop lounge and an enclosed sidewalk cafe. The spa will be open to the public through memberships, and the building’s lower level will offer a fitness center, a boutique men’s hair and nail salon, and two massage rooms operated by Leon Studio One, as well as a second commercial kitchen, laundry area and employee break room.

There's also a revolving first-floor bar and 120-seat fine-dining restaurant named Chez Ami, to hearken back to a predecessor restaurant of that name on Delaware Avenue.

The hotel's VUE rooftop lounge, with a retractable roof, will host its first big event July 14, followed by its public opening the next day. Additional events are also booked, Croce said.

Rooms will feature high-end Italian and Turkish marble, dark wood furniture, remote-control toilets with heated seats, jet tubs and steam showers.

The new hotel will be part of Choice International’s Ascend Collection of independent hotels, which includes the Giacomo in Niagara Falls and Salvatore’s Grand in Cheektowaga. Room rates will range from $189 to $599 a night.

The conversion of the long-vacant, 57,560-square-foot Harlow C. Curtiss Building at 204-216 Franklin has been underway since 2015 and included the site of the former Continental Building and nightclub, which were torn down. The project benefited from $685,000 in Erie County Industrial Development Agency sales and mortgage tax breaks, $1.35 million in Restore NY funds, National Grid grants and city property tax breaks.

"All the work we did, as long as we took to put it together, it's a very gratifying day," Croce said Friday. "Nobody's seen anything like this in Buffalo before."

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