BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says a site on Delaware Ave. is the best option for a new convention center in Buffalo.
The 4.2-acre piece of land, next to Statler City, would cost a grand total of approximately $441 million, according to a completed study commissioned by Erie County.
“It is the priority project right now from this administration,” Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz listed the area on Delaware Ave. as the preferred site for a number of reasons. Some of those were the close proximity to restaurants and a chance for restoration of Statler City. Overall, he believes it will offer the best return on the money that would be invested into it.
The Delaware site was one of three places considered. The study also examined the option of expanding the current convention center or a new location in the HSBC Atrium site across from KeyBank Center.
Under the proposal, Genesee St. would be extended through the site of the current convention center.
If the project commences, the current center would remain open while the new one is constructed. The current one would eventually be torn down, allowing the creation of a new parking deck in that area.
“This building was outdated when it was completed,” Poloncarz said of the current facility, noting it is half the size of what a market like Buffalo would demand.
The Buffalo Niagara Convention Center that’s currently in place was opened in 1978. Poloncarz stated he believes it has “insufficient loading docks,” a “dismal streetscape” and a “total lack of openness and sunlight.”
In a previous period of public comment, the County Executive said 86 percent of participants wanted the Queen City to stay in the business of having conventions, and that the city must invest in a plan to create a state-of-the-art facility.
Poloncarz said assistance from the state would be necessary to pay for the project, although funding is not expected in the upcoming state budget.
“It’s going to be a lot of discussion with our bond council and our fiscal advisers to find ways in which we can finance this,” Poloncarz said.
Meanwhile, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, a frequent critic of Poloncarz, questioned the $441 million price tag. He said if the county had to bond the entire project, the cost would be much higher.
“We found that the interest payments alone would be about $255 million,” Mychajliw said. “Combined with principal and interest, the real cost would be $700 million.”
Poloncarz would like to see construction begin in 2023. The facility itself could take 30-36 months to build, according to the firm hired by Erie County to conduct the study.