BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Douglas Jemal, the owner of Douglas Development, has been announced as the next owner of Statler City.
The building was previously owned by local developer Mark Croce. His widow, Jessica, made the announcement of the building’s new ownership during a conference Thursday morning.
“We signed papers yesterday,” Jessica Croce announced Thursday morning.
This past January, Mark Croce died in a helicopter crash at age 58. The crash, which also took the life of his passenger, 63-year-old Michael Capriotto, occurred in central Pennsylvania.
Both Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Common Council President Darius Pridgen spoke highly of Croce during the conference, where Pridgen referred to the developer as a “prophet.”
Brown called Croce “an early Buffalo and downtown Buffalo booster.” He bought the Statler in 2011. City officials credit him for saving it from a $15 million demolition. Since, Statler City has opened wedding and banquet halls and a lobby bar.
“All the brides on the books, they’re still dealing with Statler City,” Jessica Croce said. “So there’s no change besides they’re going to walk up to a beautiful building.”
Jemal, who owns Seneca One Tower and the old Buffalo Police Headquarters now adds this historic Statler Building to his portfolio. Speaking during Thursday’s conference, he referred to himself not as the building’s new owner, but instead, its “caretaker.” He says he envisions a mixed-use building.
“I think it’s going to be residential, hotel, retail, entertainment, and possibly gaming,” Jemal said.
“Mark Croce had a vision that this should be connected to the convention center,” he also said, referring to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center across the street. “I still believe it should be.”
Erie County officials are currently examining another idea to build a new convention center on another site, which would be next door to the Statler on Delaware Ave. Consultants estimate the project would cost $440 million. But Jemal emphatically said he doesn’t support that idea.
“I believe it should be the existing convention center,” Jemal said. “The existing convention center should be modernized. It wouldn’t be hard to do.
“Where are you going to get the money to build a new convention center? Let’s get real about what we can do and what we can’t do.”
In response, a spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “There have been no conversations between Mr. Jemal and Erie County, but I can tell you the plan he outlines… was rejected by consultants for a number of reasons.”
Regardless of what happens to the convention center in the future, Patrick Kaler, The head of Visit Buffalo Niagara who serves as its CEO, says Thursday’s announcement of Jemal’s purchase provides a benefit.
“This gives us the opportunity to tell the story that (the Statler) is finally going to be operating as a hotel, right across the street from the convention center,” Kaler said.
Earlier this year, Mayor Brown announced that the city would like to rename the portion of Genesee St. in front of the building will be renamed “Croce Way.” On Thursday, he unveiled the street signs. The naming will become official pending a common council vote.