Rocco Termini wants to restore the luster to the tarnished gem known as the Lafayette Hotel.
He wants to convert the abandoned AM&A's building into something other than the downtown's largest building code violation.
Good for him.
Because, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Termini is talking the possibility of hotel rooms being part of the mix.And being part of the developer crowd that can't possibly do a project without a government handout, his hand is no doubt poised to dip into our pocket.
The trouble is that practically every hotel in and around downtown Buffalo was built with public subsidies, and most of them are treading water -- at best.
In a story I did a year ago, I reported:
For nearly 30 years, politicians have poured more than $65 million into downtown Buffalo hotels — an average of more than $50,000 per room. The strategy produced five hotels — and a lot of red ink.
Some of downtown’s largest hotel operators say the last thing they need is more competition, especially subsidized competitors.
But that’s exactly the course City Hall is pursuing.
Indeed, since I wrote that story:
- Embassy Suites opened in the highly subsidized Avant building.
- Mark Croce -- the restaurant and parking lot operator who is pals with Byron Brown and Brian Davis -- has broken ground on a boutique hotel at Franklin and West Huron streets with the help of a $1.35 million grant from the state.
- A group that includes Sam Savarino wants to buy the Statler and restore a portion of the building to hotel space.
- Jim Pitts is still trying to get a hotel built on the waterfront in an Empire Zone .
- There's continuing talk of putting a hotel into Canal Side at the foot of Main Street.
Now, Termini is considering adding yet another hotel or two to the mix.
I think the phrase is "Good money after bad."
I mean, if five subsidized hotels can't make it for lack of demand, how will eight, nine -- do I hear 10! -- fare?
A year ago, Richard Geiger, then president of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that more rooms would not help bolster the convention and tourism business.
“Based on current market demand, we have a sufficient number of rooms in the downtown core,” he said.
He's since gotten the boot from Chris Collins, and his successor, Drew Cerza, is singing a somewhat different tune, according to our story the other day.
In the end, Cerza believes that the market will decide how many projects move forward.
I think the market decided a long time ago. The problem is the politicians think they know better. They've been wrong -- tens and tens of millions of dollars wrong. The question is whether they'll keep making the same mistake for the sake of photo ops and rewarding campaign donors.
Not everyone in local government has such a "subsidize now, ask questions later, if ever." Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is one of them.
As for Termini, I wish him well with his latest undertakings. But please, remember to put up the safety railings before the fact.
taggedCity Hall | Economic Development | Subsidies