BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County officials announced Tuesday morning that work will be done to the front side of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The work is scheduled to start in February and be finished the following December.

In the past, County Executive Mark Poloncarz has expressed interest in starting work on a new $441 million convention center in 2023. That facility would be built across from the current one between Huron Street and Mohawk Street. The plan does not appear to be in the forefront of leaders’ minds, as Poloncarz said a new center is “on the back burner.”

“I wouldn’t say dead, but they are not the priority right now,” Poloncarz said of those plans.

The county executive said he believes it makes no sense to invest nearly half a billion dollars on a new facility that might not be needed because of a change in the convention business.

“I do not want to be in a situation where I saddle this community with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and not be able to see a return from it,” Poloncarz said. “I don’t know what it is going to look like. None of us know what it’s going to look like two, three years from now, nevertheless 10 years from now.”

This news follows the recent completion of $1.2 million in improvements to the center’s lobby. These include new flooring, lighting and other technology. Poloncarz said the façade work is expected to cost less than $10 million.

“These improvements make the Convention Center much warmer and more welcoming for visitors, creating brightly lit and accessible spaces that will aid in the flow of large events and assist visitors in finding their way around the building,” Poloncarz said. “The next step will involve a much-needed renovation of the Convention Center’s Franklin Street façade and entryway, vastly improving the exterior and lighting the way to a new future for tourism in downtown Buffalo.”

Patrick Kaler, the President and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, said the change in plans is a “realistic disappointment”, noting that had the pandemic not happened, they would have like a new convention center to be built. But he believes the renovation work planned at the current facility can keep the region competitive.

“They are the projects that our customers and our clients have told us that they would like to see happen, either in a new convention center or existing convention center,” Kaler said.

In the past, the Convention Center received upgrades in phases in 1995 and 2001-03.

Like the lobby project, the new upgrades to the building’s facade will be funded through Erie County’s capital projects fund and the RENEW Plan.

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Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.