State Support for Iconic Complex Will Create Hundreds of Jobs
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the first phase of the Richardson Olmsted Complex reuse project is officially underway, with a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction on the $69 million redevelopment project. The transformation of the long-vacant former state facility in Buffalo will begin with the development of a hospitality venue, including an 88-room hotel, a 300-plus seat conference and event center, an architecture center for Buffalo in the three main buildings, and the re-greening of the site through a new landscape and roadway.
“The reimagined Richardson Olmsted Complex will create a new venue for business events and a new place in Western New York for visitors to explore," Governor Cuomo said. "We’re proud to have helped with the redevelopment of this complex, which is another great example of Buffalo’s continued momentum.”
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy said, “The redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Complex has been a project years in the making, and thanks to Governor Cuomo we’re now seeing it come to fruition. A Buffalo landmark, this investment will transform the district and spur economic development in the city for years to come. I want to thank the Richardson Center Corporation and all of our state partners for breathing life back into this historic building.”
The project will create more than 500 construction jobs and up to 75 full time jobs at the opening of the hospitality venue. The hotel and event and conference center will also provide significant annual economic benefits. Annual room night sales of $3.3 million equates to $451,185 in sales or occupancy tax revenue. An estimated $3,678,000 in direct sales from hotel and conference guests while in Buffalo will provide an additional $321,825 in annual sales tax revenues.
The not-for-profit Richardson Center Corporation has pursued a reuse plan for the complex since it was formed in 2006. For many years prior, committed preservationists, elected officials, and community members focused attention on the decades of neglect and deterioration. The reuse builds upon the concepts developed in the Master Plan for the site, created with community input gathered through ten public meetings and with the active participation of the Richardson Center Corporation Community Advisory Group. Thousands of people provided input to create a reuse plan that complements and strengthens the neighborhoods. The first phase of redevelopment and site work sets the stage for future development of the remaining two of three buildings as academic and arts and culture related use.
Concurrently with the intense preservation planning process, the eight acre South Lawn landscape was created to transform the entry from two large parking lots to a green space and welcoming entry. Considerable effort was made to be true to the original design intent by world renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Stabilization activities totaling $10 million have taken place to prevent further deterioration and vandalism of the nearly 500,000 square feet of buildings.
The Richardson Center Corporation is now undertaking the renovation as the developer of this first phase. The $69 million construction project is funded with $54 million in state support and will leverage $15 million in state and federal Historic Tax Credits. The Richardson Center Corporation’s investor for the historic tax credits is M&T Bank. In addition, Empire State Development provided grants for the preconstruction, stabilization and re-greening activities.
Stanford Lipsey, Chairman of the Richardson Center Corporation, said, “Today we celebrate a monumental landmark. The Richardson Olmsted Complex is the third jewel in the crown of Buffalo’s rich architecture, along with the Guaranty Building and the Darwin Martin House. Its reuse will play a vital role in continuing the impressive growth of our region’s economic resurgence, and would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership of the board and the investment of New York State.”
The redevelopment will include opportunities for Western New York residents to enjoy the South Lawn, eat at the restaurant and visit the architecture center, which will celebrate excellence in architecture, landscape architecture and city planning as influenced by Buffalo’s outstanding architectural heritage. It will also include exhibits and programming that honors the mental health, architectural and landscape history of the site.
The two year construction period will begin with exterior work on the windows, roof, ready the north entry for replacement entry, and masonry. Next year, the site work and interior build out will begin. The hotel, conference and event spaces, as well as the Buffalo Architecture Center, are all expected to open in Fall 2016.
The design team is comprised of executive architect Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo and design architect Deborah Berke Partners of New York. Additional members of the team include Boston-based historic preservation firm Goody Clancy; Andropogon Associates, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm; and LP Ciminelli, a construction management firm from Buffalo. The Hotel, Conference & Event Center leaseholder is an affiliate of The Mansion Group and INNVest Lodging Services, headquartered in Buffalo.
Senator Mark Grisanti said, “This is an exciting transformation that I am proud to be a part of; the very first piece of legislation I had signed into law by Governor Cuomo was Senate Bill S 1406, which transferred the Richardson Olmsted Complex from the State to the Richardson Center Corporation. This project will create both construction and permanent full time jobs and I congratulate all parties involved.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “The rebirth of the Richardson Olmsted Complex is one of the great success stories in the history of the City of Buffalo. Long forgotten and abandoned, the Richardson Olmsted Complex now has a place in Buffalo's future thanks to the tireless work of so many at the federal, state, and local levels. The improvements to the South Lawn are already drawing visitors from near and far. The renovations now underway will continue the progress we have seen, create hundreds of jobs for Western New Yorkers, and preserve the Richardson Olmsted Complex for future generations.”
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Today marks the beginning of a new era for the historic Richardson Olmsted Complex. I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for his continued commitment to Buffalo. The redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Complex will create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs and provide significant annual economic benefits, continuing the positive momentum that has resulted in over $4.5 billion in new economic development activity in our city.”
Flynn Battaglia Architects Principal Peter Flynn said, “It is an honor and distinct pleasure to lead the design team commissioned to develop a new Hotel and Conference center for this Buffalo architectural treasure. The interior beauty of a long hidden space, designed by HH Richardson, one of the fathers of American architecture, will be revealed and restored and a Frederick Law Olmsted landscape that has been lost will be recreated. The significance of HH Richardson’s public architecture at the time the Center was designed brought national attention to public health through the appreciation of an iconic public building which brought respect to the profession of architecture as well. This project will once again focus public interest and bring renewed respect to the historic resources on the site.”
Deborah Berke Partners Founding Partner Deborah Berke said, “The extraordinary Richardson Olmsted Complex is a stunning place and it is an honor to be part of the team that is bringing new life to it. With the start of construction we can celebrate several years of design work actually becoming real. As an architect I love making old buildings relevant to today’s world, and I believe our thoughtful and inventive adaptation will revitalize Richardson’s 19th century masterpiece with a 21st century spirit.”
The Mansion Group Partner Diana Principe said, “Through our lease, we are resolute to ignite a larger than life hotel and conference center experience within this National Historic Landmark and contribute to Buffalo-Niagara’s economic vitality. Jobs, tourism and attractions emanating from this hotel facility will preserve this community jewel, for the nation to discover and experience, for decades to come.”
This National Historic Landmark is a masterpiece of the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, along with his partner Calvert Vaux. The 42 acres and collection of buildings known as the Richardson Olmsted Complex is nationally recognized as a great work of these two masters and locally admired for the monumental presence and iconic copper towers.