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The lowdown on the Pitts hotel deal

A lot of folks have been scratching their heads the past few weeks over the city's selection of a waterfront hotel project fronted by former Common Council Member James W. Pitts. On the surface, the competing proposal from Ciminelli Development had a lot more going for it, which prompted Donn Esmonde to criticize the decision and characterize the winning proposal as "something that belongs next to a Thruway off ramp." He echoed a common sentiment.

The city desk asked me to look into the deal, which I report on in Sunday's Buffalo News.

Long story short, there were problems with both proposals and the way city development officials managed the selection process. The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency could have rejected them both and started over. But Mayor Byron Brown was determined to go with the Pitts project and muscled the proposal through BURA. He appoints most of the board members and got his way.

For now, anyway. It's likely the Council is going to reject BURA's decision.

A lot of folks think the decision was political, and perhaps it was. But Pitts and Brown were not buddy-buddy when they served together on the Council, so I'm not so sure politics is at the root of it.

Me, I chalk it up as yet another example of the dysfunction that plagues economic development efforts, not only in Buffalo, but across the region. Brian Reilly, the city's economic development chief, has some good ideas on correcting the city's development process, but he didn't exactly distinguish himself on this project.

   

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City Hall | Economic Development
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