History and high-tech combine at Buffalo's new Curtiss Hotel

Feb 6, 2017

It's almost ready. The $24 million adaptive re-use of an office building into a high-end boutique hotel, with the high-end-sounding, historic name bar: the Chez Ami. Hospitality entrepreneur Mark Croce showed off his soon-to-open Curtiss Hotel during a Preservation Buffalo Niagara tour Thursday evening.

Dr. Steve Lakomy was impressed.

"It's fantastic," he said. "Just like all the other properties that have been rehabilitated in Buffalo over the past 10-15 years, I think it's fantastic for Buffalo. As a matter of fact, I wish that the historic tax credit program had started 20-30 years ago because we've lost so many beautiful buildings in Buffalo. So, yeah, I think this is absolutely wonderful."

The view through the windows right now is construction equipment, partially built rooms and smoothly polished marble. With opening of the hotel getting near, Preservation Buffalo Niagara sponsored a tour of the building to see its century-old bones and what is going into making it a 21st-century hotel.

"Some of the challenges you discover, things that you didn't anticipate when you're are dealing with a 100-plus-year-old building, there are some things that have to be fixed, repaired, stabilized, modified, so that's the unique challenge of taking an old building and putting a modern hotel and very high-tech, state-of-the-art hotel in an old historic building," Croce said. "So trying to blend the old with the new and make it all work sometimes presents its own challenges but we're almost there."

Croce says re-building an office building put up in 1911 into a hotel took longer than expected, but is almost done.

"Sixty-eight high-end, luxury boutique hotel rooms, 200-seat restaurant with a outdoor patio and a rooftop patio bar, indoor-outdoor hot springs. As far as how soon? We're talking about two months to completion, give or take," Croce estimated. "So it's going to be late spring and we're very excited. We have a lot of people that are highly anticipating our opening for this property."

Croce said it is a mix of the latest technology behind the walls - there are miles of wire behind that drywall, controlling what he says is the smartest and greenest building downtown - and classic design in the floors, lots of carvings and even a hot spring that can be used inside the building or outside off the parking lot. There are electronic buttons throughout the hotel rooms, ready to go.

A main feature is the set of motors and gears, controlling the revolving bar of what was once perhaps the most famous bar in the city.

"It was known as the Home of the Revolving Bar back in the 1950s and we have re-introduced the revolving bar," Croce said. "It's the only one in New York State and I think the only other revolving restaurant is the Marriott Marquis in New York City and then you have, obviously up in Canada, the Skylon, but those are restaurants. We actually have a revolving bar."

Croce said his Curtiss Hotel this ties together his other properties: Statler City and his Buffalo Chophouse, all within a few blocks of each other.

"If you look at all of our properties, they are all on Franklin Street. They all have a physical and operational connection and really now we have high-end hotel rooms to complement the big weddings and other special events in Statler City and now we have the high-end secondary restaurant with the Buffalo Chophouse, which is a mainstay in downtown now," he said. "If someone stayed here a couple of nights and don't want to eat at the Chez Ami both nights, they are going to be able to eat at the Buffalo Chophouse."