The final markings and signage which identified the former Adam's Mark Hotel are coming down. New signs revealing it as the Buffalo Grand are going up, and the Canadian developer who acquired the downtown Buffalo hotel has grand plans for its remodeling, including a larger space suitable for conventions and a wedding chapel that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright but previously never built.
Harry Stinson admits the flashing sign now revealing his hotel as the Buffalo Grand has something of a Las Vegas feel. Many of his other ideas, though, will be more in tune with Buffalo.
While the hotel remains open for business, work will continue through most of 2019 to remodel portions of the hotel, while rooms and hallways will be updated with new flooring and a warmer, friendlier feel.
Stinson also has plans to add new restaurants and other spaces that will give both travelers and local folks a place to enjoy a day or evening out.
"Recently, in this last decade, it has simply been economic hotel rooms, more of a bus tour-type group hotel offering low costs and central accommodation," he said. "But it used to be a hospitality place. It used to have the banquets and events. People used to come for the Sunday brunch. they used to come to the bar. They used to come to the club. All those things have faded away. Those, we're beinging back. We're bringing back live music. We're opening a comedy club."
Upstairs, Stinson will eventually remodel the large ballroom and lobby by removing walls to create a mammoth, wide-open space large enough to host conventions.
"It's enormous space and if you take down the walls around the lobby of it, it would be larger than a convention center," he said. "My plan down the road, a year or two, is to expand our current ballroom, which is equivalent to the Buffalo convention center, double it in size and create that 150,000-square-foot conference space that was talked about. But we'd do it on our nickel and not on the taxpayers' nickel, and in two years as opposed to ten."
It is not his intention, though, to compete with a publicly constructed convention space. Rather, Stinson insisrts, he wants to complement it.
"The problem is, the city does not have adequate meeting space right now," he said. "If you have the two of them together, we'd still only be at the level of a mid-sized city. You need two venues. As it is now, you have one large venue, officially, so if it's booked on a day, that's it, whereas two venues is good for the city."
Among the customers he'd like to attract are sports teams and sports-oriented guests. He also has a vision to tap into the region's architecture and historical tourism by introducing a wedding chapel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a hotel in California but, after his death, was never built. And there's more from the famed architect's legacy coming to the Buffalo Grand.
"We were actually offered the complete interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright house which is being demolished, I think it was in Minnesota," Stinton said. "The demolition contractor called us and said 'I just had to tear all this stuff out, but it's all the orignial paneling and everything.' So we bought the interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright house to have literal, authentic interior."
Stinson paid $17 million for the hotel and estimates he'll spend at least that for renovations. He previously pitched to take over and redevelop the former Central Terminal in Buffalo's East Side. He had been the designated designer but the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation opted to part ways with the developer in May 2017.
Stinson, who is based in Hamilton, Ontario, is still very interested in redeveloping the Central Terminal and hopes his hotel proves him to be a capable and serious developer in Buffalo.
"This is a 600,000-square-foot building. Central Terminal is 600,000," he said. "It's 30 acres plus on the whole site and I saw that as an entire village to be done. We're definitely doing this and it can be seen. I hope they will take a cue from that."