BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — John Koelmel, the man hired to make the vision of HarborCenter a reality, is leaving he company.
“I’m not a fan of transitions earlier than later,” Koelmel told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not one to hang around when there isn’t a real need.”
While he said he got along well with owners Terry and Kim Pegula, Koelmel said he knew the project would become more complex and would require new leadership.
“This was a transition that was long anticipated in terms of the specifics of the HarborCenter role, and it was really a question of when,” Koelmel said.
The announcement caught people who work at HarborCenter by surprise.
Mike Feyko, who works at the 716 sports bar and restaurant, said, “It’s shocking. I mean I didn’t see it coming. I’m sure nobody else saw it coming.”
Another 716 worker, Christian Cianflone, said they’re upset at the departure. They say his name is on every project.
HaborCenter is a $200 million dollar sports and entertainment complex which still has retail and hotel components awaiting completion.
Koelmel was hired by the Pegula’s 21 months ago. Koelmel said he has positioned his team for success and that he is now ready and willing to step back.
Two years ago John Koelmel expressed disappointment when his tenure as President and CEO of First Niagara Bank suddenly came to an end.
He grew First Niagara by acquiring 195 HSBC Bank branches, but First Niagara’s stock price went on the decline.
Koelmel’s two year non-compete clause, which was part of his former First Niagara contract, has now expired.
He would not say if he plans on going back into the banking business.
But he did express his pride in what he and his team have accomplished at HarborCenter.
“The successes that we’ve had have been phenomenal, so I’m really pleased, really proud of what’s been accomplished. More importantly, excited for what will come,” he said.