Canadian real estate investor and developer Harry Stinson has completed his long-awaited purchase of the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo, saying he paid $17 million for the Church Street structure.
Nearly a year after signing a purchase contract –and more than nine months later than anticipated – Stinson, through Buffalo Grand Hotel Inc., acquired the 484-room hotel at 120 Church St., bringing the city's biggest hotel under new ownership for the first time in nearly a decade.
He acquired it from WNY Lodging LLC, which is owned by Visions Hotels of Corning, according to documents filed with the Erie County Clerk's Office Thursday.
"We wish the new owners all the best," said Visions partner Arun "Andy" Patel.
Stinson said he plans to renovate the nine-story hotel and rebrand it as the independent Buffalo Grand Hotel, in one of his biggest U.S. projects.
In particular, he plans to restore it to its glory days as the city's leading conference hotel, with a focus on events and hospitality, instead of rate-driven accommodations. He noted that it's already the largest convention hotel in the state outside Manhattan, not including casinos.
"I'm actually quite excited by it," he said. "Our plan is to revitalize the building ... We don't really have any new ideas. We're just putting it back the way it was built properly the first time."
Stinson wants to upgrade the food service and dining room, while enhancing the guest rooms, conference center, fitness facility, pool and spa. Stinson said he will bring back a "really good" in-house coffee shop while "really building up the entertainment and hospitality."
He's investing in new electronics, cash management and reservations systems.
"There's so much to do," Stinson said. "Even in the last days, we've ramped up the sales and catering and marketing department considerably."
Plans call for starting immediately with the public spaces "because they're obviously most visible," but he'll turn his attention to creating some model rooms that will "show the style of how they should be," Stinson said.
The goal is to have the "cosmetics and visual decor" finished by Christmas, Stinson said.
"We're not a brand," he said. "We have the freedom to basically be as flamboyant as it requires. This is a place where we're going to accommodate the major events and the flair that's needed for it."
That includes a change in transport vehicles, to a stretch Lincoln and Bentley – which were stationed out front after Stinson took over.
Stinson said he intends to invest more than $30 million in the property. He noted it comes with two acres of vacant land, where he ultimately hopes to expand the facility and enlarge the convention space.
"The intent is to really enlarge it. Go big or go home," Stinson said. "All the elements are there to really run with it."
That's music to the ears of tourism officials.
"I think it's a good thing. I'm excited about what I have heard from Harry Stinson and his plans," said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, operator of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
"We've been a part of their process going through this sale, and it's the largest property in Buffalo and has very ample meeting space, and his plans for renovation are exciting to us," Kaler said. "It freshens up a property that needs attention. It's very substantial."
The hotel will be run by general manager Stephen Fitzmaurice, Stinson's director of U.S. projects, former chief operating officer of One Seneca Tower.
But Stinson also started bringing in a new management team, including staff members who remember working in the building when it was a Hilton.
"They recall the good old days," Stinson said. "They recall how it operated when it was a very busy event hotel, and that was 20 years ago."
The formal deed reflects a $12 million price for the real estate. But Stinson said the total cost was $17 million.
That represents just over $35,000 per room, which is "almost unheard of" as an extremely low price for an upscale hotel, said April Bedell, account manager at Lodging Econometrics in Portsmouth, N.H.
The research firm reported earlier this year that the average selling price per room nationwide last year was $141,479, while a separate report by STR Inc. and hotel Brokers International cited an average investment per room – including both purchase price and expected capital expenditures – of $240,000.
Lodging Econometrics said the Courtyard by Marriott in Amherst sold for $60,000 per room.
Opened in 1978 as the Buffalo Hilton, the Adam's Mark has gone through several owners, but was most recently acquired by Visions in 2009 for $8.87 million.
Stinson has a mixed record in the United States.
The developer had previously tried to renovate the Hotel Niagara in Niagara Falls, but ended up selling the building on Rainbow Boulevard to the state's USA Niagara Development Corp. for $4.4 million.
He wanted to redevelop the Central Terminal on Buffalo's East Side into an office, hotel and entertainment complex, and even received designated developer status from the Central Terminal Restoration Corp.
But after granting one six-month extension, the nonprofit agency decided not to renew the agreement.