Webster Block: City Picks Sabres for Development in Downtown Buffalo

7:26 PM, Aug 29, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced Wednesday that the City has chosen the Buffalo Sabres' plan to redevelop the Webster block in downtown Buffalo.

Mayor Byron Brown put out the Request for Proposal at the beginning of April.  The city received two proposals that were submitted by the Buffalo Sabres and Ellicott Development

The committee determined the Sabres' proposal would have the best long-term benefits for Buffalo and Western New York.

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Click here for the Sabres' proposal

The Sabres' project, called Harbor Center, is expected to cost over $123 million to develop and include a hotel, retail and a restaurant, ice rinks and parking.

The ice rinks will be built on top of the parking ramp, according to Sabres President Ted Black.

"The inspiration for that probably comes from the practice rink the (NHL) Washington Capitals have," Black said, referring to the Kettler Iceplex, which was built on top of a parking garage in Arlington, Virginia.

"Buffalo is already known as hockey heaven, so now we'll have hockey in the heavens," Black joked. 

The Sabres' will pay the city $2 million to purchase the Webster block and they must break ground by March 1, 2013.

The City says the Sabres plan to hire 1,500 workers for construction and development of the project, and 350 permanent employees after that.

Cliff Benson, the Sabres' Chief Development Officers, says, "No other NHL team will have anything like this." The Sabres hope to spend the next four to six months planning. 

Under terms with their agreement with the city, the Sabres need to have the parking garage and ice rinks open by no later than September 30, 2014. 

Black says the rink will be an elite, state-of-the-art training facility -- "a magnet for hockey players of all ages."

The ice rinks are expected to be used for hockey-themed events and tournaments, as well as public and youth hockey teams.

The Sabres say they plan to work with New Era to create a flagship store there and are also in talks with Tim Horton's for a location there.

The Sabres have until May 30, 2015 to open the 200 room hotel.

Brown says the Sabres proposal was chosen over one submitted by Carl Paladino's Ellicott Development firm for many reasons, including the feeling that while Paladino's plan for a $64 million condominium/hotel/retail/restaurant complex would have been a fine enhancement for visitors to the Canal Side development area, the Sabres plan was thought of as more of a destination in and of itself...able to attract even more visitors to the area.

"There is a wow factor here, there's no question about that," Brown remarked in reference to the Sabres proposal.

Brown says the Sabres will pay property taxes of approximately $4.8 million annually once the complex is completed. 

As part of the agreement the Sabres also agreed to:

  • Seek city residents for post-construction jobs
  • use local workforce for construction and meet 25% minority and 5% female hiring goals
  • 25% minority business and 5% women business enterprise participation goals
  •  Pay Living Wage for employees of ice rink and parking ramp
  • Attain the highest reasonable environmental standards for building
  • Expand parking in the building to make attendance at Canalside events more convenient for the public
  • Construct a facility that attracts new hockey-themed events/tournaments, and creates new opportunities for other special events
  • Commit to public, community and youth hockey use
  • Receive additional community input through a design charette process.



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