BUFFALO, N.Y. — Despite the COVID pandemic and supply chain disruptions, Douglas Development is moving forward with quite a few major projects in Buffalo, and all at the same time.
Its founder and president, Douglas Jemal, says he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Look, I love challenges," he told 2 On Your Side. "I don't want to waste time. I came here to get a job done, and I'm going to get it done."
Greg Baker, Douglas Development's director of development and construction, took 2 On Your Side on a tour of several of the job sites and gave a progress report on the many simultaneous projects.
Perhaps Jemal's most ambitious project to date, the Statler is being transformed into a mixed-use building with hundreds of parking spots, more than 400 apartments and nearly 200 hotel rooms.
Crews are now doing demolition work on the upper floors, revealing original handiwork that hasn't been seen in decades.
The 9th, 10th and 11th floors have been spared drastic change over the past century, so they'll be restored to their original condition and utilized for the hotel.
The rest of the upper floors will be for apartments, except for the second, which is being turned into parking. The basement has also been reconfigured to house about 200 cars.
The plan is to finish construction over the next 12 to 15 months and get tenants in shortly thereafter.
"It's a 100-year-old building," Jemal said of the Statler. "So it's like humpty dumpty. ... We're going to put it back together again properly, like it was 100 years ago."
The Hyatt Regency
Shortly after the start of the pandemic, the Hyatt Regency closed down due to conflicts between the previous owner and the hotel chain.
Douglas Development purchased the debt and got the building following foreclosure proceedings. He said he couldn't let one of the flagship hotels in downtown Buffalo continue to be vacant.
"It's across the street from the Convention Center, and just imagine losing 400 rooms when you're having a convention," Jemal said. "That's why it was very important."
Although new mattresses and other furniture are on order, and there are some small upgrades underway, the hotel has fully reopened.
"We've hit capacity several times," Baker said, adding that a multimillion dollar upgrade is planned, with improvements to rooms and public spaces.
The Police Apartments
Douglas Development's most recent completed project is now welcoming new tenants each week.
The Police Apartments has only been open a few months, yet it's already almost half full. The former headquarters for Buffalo Police was turned into 114 residential units.
Studios, plus one and two-bedroom apartments are available.
The Mahoney State Office Building
Jemal won the bid for the Mahoney State Office Building, which sits directly across Genesee Street from the Statler.
He paid $4.1 million at a public auction.
Jemal has said he wants to turn the five-story building into a hotel.
The future looked pretty dim for Buffalo's tallest building and only skyscraper, but it's now home to M&T Bank's Tech Hub, many other private businesses, and 114 high-end apartments.
The biggest update on Jemal's first big project in Buffalo is that all of those apartments are now rented, and there's a growing wait list.
It's known as the "doughnut" parking lot. The piece of property at 61 Terrace is prime real estate, and Douglas Development has now gotten final approval to purchase the land for $1.5 million.
It was previously owned by the City of Buffalo and BURA and sits feet from Seneca One.
Jemal has plans for a 5-story parking garage with about 150 apartments on top.
The estimated time frame for construction is a year and a half.
The Mohawk Ramp
Despite strong competition, Jemal's company was recently selected by the City of Buffalo to redevelop the Mohawk Ramp.
His proposal with Antunovich Associates, an architectural firm, calls for ground-level retail, a massive parking garage with 800 spaces and 200 apartments on upper levels.
The project is expected to cost more than $100 million, and Jemal has said he wants to tie it in with his plans for the old Simon Electric properties that he previously purchased. There, Douglas Development plans 400 apartments, including a portion designated as affordable housing.
This will be a longer-term project, and Douglas Development hasn't yet acquired the actual ramp property.
The Richardson Olmsted Campus
Finally, 2 On Your Side got an updated look at the Richardson Olmsted Campus in North Buffalo. The Hotel Henry and event space inside closed during the pandemic, and Douglas Development has signed a lease to take over the space.
Jemal has added a large bar and indoor wine cellar to the banquet hall and made other improvements, like adding a staircase and moving the hotel check-in area to the first floor.
The hotel and event space should reopen this summer, but there are much bigger, longer-term plans as well.
Jemal will get to redevelop the six buildings on campus that are to the west of the hotel. The initial plan is to build out up to 200 apartments, bringing new life to the old psychiatric hospital space that has been vacant for decades.
"It's one of a kind," Baker said. "It's a very expensive construction, which is why a lot of it sat for so long, because you have to get in and do historic (preservation) and keep everything in tact."
Baker said the goal is to start moving in residential tenants in 15 to 18 months.
When asked about taking on so many major projects at the same time, Jemal responded, "Watch me go."