Buffalo, NY - The new owner of the old AM&A's building in downtown Buffalo wants to transform it into a major tourist destination.
While this is all in the beginning stages, architect John Schenne says he submitted plans to the Buffalo Planning Board Wednesday for the project that carries a price tag of at least $50-million.
It includes a three-hundred room hotel, two restaurants, six apartments, a medical clinic, and an underground spa.
Landco H&L, Inc. paid $2.7-million dollars for the building in late 2014. Schenne says the investment group also owns a travel company which serves a lot of Chinese customers.
Tourism industry leaders welcomed the news of the plan Wednesday.
"It's a really great opportunity for Buffalo, and the Niagara Region, and Western New York because of the influx of Chinese visitors that are coming in. Even though they are saying that everybody is welcome to the hotel, we know that they are affiliated with a Chinese tour operator, tour company, and the influx of the large number of Chinese tourists that are coming into the State of New York is just huge. It's the fastest growing in the market, and so to have these three-hundred rooms, and the type of property, and experience is going to be very exciting for our destination," says Patrick Kaler with Visit Buffalo Niagara.
The company runs tour buses in and out of Niagara Falls every day. Schenne says they expect this hotel to run at a 90-percent occupancy rate. The average for hotels in the United States is around 60-percent.
Kaler says this is part of a growing trend of Chinese tourists taking longer 17 day tours across the U.S.
"Right now, so many of those tours are only in our area for about, not even 24 hours, really. They're coming, spending the night, going to the Falls, then leaving. Now we're starting to get some more experienced Chinese travelers, and they're coming back and spending more time, and so, I think that having them stay in the downtown area, where they still will go to the Falls, but they'll also do some cultural attractions, they'll do some more things in the area," says Kaler.
The Buffalo Planning Board is expected to hear more April 7, but asbestos removal will start right away. That is expected to take three to four months, says Schenne.
A public hearing also has to happen, so Schenne says construction would not get underway for 80 to 90 days at the earliest if the City of Buffalo approves the plans.