Last August, HARBORcenter Development, LLC, the development company associated with the Buffalo Sabres, was selected by the City of Buffalo to develop the Webster Block and almost a year later, the progress being made is obvious. Cranes are in the air and construction workers populate the space that was once a parking lot across the street from First Niagara Center.
As construction continues, a new partnership was revealed for the hotel portion of the $172-million project that will feature also two full-size NHL ice rinks, a two-story restaurant, street-level retail space and a five-level, 850-space parking structure.
Amid the din of construction crews plugging away, HARBORcenter President John Koelmel announced Wednesday morning that the corporation reached an agreement with Marriott International and Shaner Hotels to develop and operate the hotel within the center. The hotel is expected to open on May 30, 2015 while the rest of the complex should be ready by September 1, 2014.
Marriott’s Chief Officer of Full Service Franchising Kip Vreeland was on hand for the press conference at First Niagara Center, as well as Shaner Companies Chairman Lance Shaner, Shaner Hotel Group President Plato Ghinos, Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
“We at Harborcenter, the Pegula team, are very, very proud and pleased to have both Shaner and Marriott as our partners and to add the Mariott flag to the increasing array of lodging opportunities in downtown Buffalo for the benefit of all visitors to Canalside and the region,” Koelmel said.
The Marriott Buffalo Harbor Center will offer 205 rooms and suites, 5,000 square feet of meeting space for groups up to 450 persons, a fitness center, a business center, high-speed Internet, a sundry/newsstand and the new Marriott Great Room, which will serve three meals daily, along with appetizers and beverages.
“We’re very honored to increase our role in the Buffalo market,” Shaner said. “We view this project as a natural fit for our organization. We are very proud to be associated with it and very excited. We believe the performance of this beautiful facility will exceed all expectations.”
The facility will be directly connected to First Niagara Center and the combined structure will be the only three-pad ice complex in the NHL. Additionally, the structure will house a hockey “center of excellence,” which will be designed to help grow and develop the sport of hockey in the region.
“This partnership that the Sabres are announcing today… reinforces the confidence that not only the City of Buffalo had, but that the people of Buffalo have in the Sabres organization to do something that is transformational for the city and for the region and something that will continue the tremendous progress in exponential fashion that we are seeing in the City of Buffalo,” Brown said.
Koelmel noted that youth hockey teams from around the country and across the Canadian border will be among their targeted guests, along with business travelers and athletes looking to do off-season training.
“We see a year-round series of opportunities that will create a steady flow [of traffic],” Koelmel said. “Take the seasonality out of it. It won’t be NHL-season dependant. We will create programming and activities literally on a year-round basis”
Construction on the site is humming right along on what will be the 19-story complex. Benson said everything is on schedule. He added that 35,000 cubic feet of dirt has been moved since ground was first broken in April.
Next week, another 20 workers will be added for 100 in all and another crane will go up, this one reaching 300 feet in the air. Benson also mentioned that 98 percent of the workforce is local.
“This project is very much a great example of government and private sector working together,” Benson said. “The city has been terrific, very supportive and we love working with them as a partner on this.”