For a quarter century, it stood as an abandoned building. Dilapidated and covered in graffiti, it was a highly visible eyesore to motorists traveling along Route 190 near Long Road in Grand Island. More recently, a developer completed an $8 million project to convert it into a hotel. On Friday, elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul presented a check to cover some of the costs associated with the project.
Hochul, joined by State Assemblymember Angelo Morinello and Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, presented a ceremonial $1 million check to Jayesh Patel, chief executive officer of Rudra Management and Rosewood Hotels. The money Hochul was announcing comes from Empire State Development's Restore NY program, and will cover the cost of asbestos removal which was needed to help complete and open what is now a Holiday Inn Express.
"To bring it back to new life, to give it not just a facelift externally but to create a welcoming experience for travelers to find their way to magnificent Grand Island, I want to thank you on behalf of the governor and the people of the State of New York," said Hochul, who also called Patel a part of the great success story in Western New York.
Under the Restore NY program, the developer must spend at least $2 million on remediation to qualify for a $1 million grant. Cities, towns and villages are eligible to apply, and the grant covers project elements such as demolition, deconstruction, rehabilitation or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, condemned and surplus properties.
"It was definitely a problematic building. There were issues written all over the walls," Patel said to WBFO when asked about his first looks at the building before redeveloping it. "But then when we walked through, the main bone of the building was pretty good."
Patel explained that his company owns many hotels but this was a chance to do something special.
The building was first built and occupied by the former Hooker Chemical, later Occidental Chemical. Occidental moved out in 1984, declaring the property "valueless." Dunlop later moved in and Briefly hosted operations at the site but also soon moved out. McMurray, in his remarks, recalled that would-be proposals to repurpose the building for the school district and for a senior home never materialized and the structure instead sat unused, and offered a dangerous place for kids to play.
Hochul and Morinello expressed a desire to prolong tourist stays in Western New York and they see the hotel as one ideally located for visitors who can visit attractions in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and in other nearby locales. The lieutenant governor also offered tribute to the Grand Island residents who no longer have to endure the sight of a run-down abandoned office building in a highly-visible spot.
"Even a few years ago, I'm going to venture even 10 years ago, people would have said why are we going to do it there? People are just passing through. Grand Island has never been a pass-through community," she said. "This is a rich community. This is a community where people are tightly knit."
The town supervisor, meanwhile, offered a tribute to Patel.
"You're an immigrant. You're a newcomer to this country. And you spent millions and millions of dollars to make my community better. I am grateful to you and your family," McMurray said.