First phase of redevelopment of Richardson Olmsted Complex complete, Hotel Henry set to open April 30

Buffalo State hospitality and tourism majors will have the opportunity to work at Hotel Henry this fall semester


James Janik/The Record

From left to right: Monica Pellegrino, Executive Director of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, Mayor of Buffalo Byron Brown, Howard Zemsky, president of Empire Economic Development, Paul Hojnacki, president of the Richardson Center Corporation Board, Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive, Rene Jones, vice chair of M&T Bank

Dan Almasi, Executive Editor

Today, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated completion of the first phase of a massive ongoing redevelopment project at the Richardson Olmsted Complex.

“What a perfectly sensible strategy to take a memorable, great architectural treasure and turn it into a driver of tourism,” said Howard Zemsky, president of Empire State Development. “We’re always trying to build on our assets. Who among us would not consider Buffalo’s great legacy of great American architecture to be one of our key assets?”

Highlighting the redevelopment is Hotel Henry, an urban resort conference center set to open on April 30. The innovative hotel and conference center embraces the architectural legacy of the Richardson Olmsted Complex while implementing modern redesign. Roughly one-third of the Richardson Olmsted Complex has been dedicated to Hotel Henry.

SUNY Buffalo State’s Hospitality and Tourism Department has plans to work with Hotel Henry to create a program for students to work at the next-door hotel and conference center.

Starting the Fall 2017 semester, students in the department who have taken HTR 368 – a hotel operations course – will be eligible to participate in the Professional Development School program.

At the outset, the program will only accept 10 students, but eventual expansion is likely. Those accepted will work at Hotel Henry for about 10 hours a week, assisting with room division, food and beverage, conference catering and sales and marketing. The program will count as a class and students will not be paid.

The total 10-year redevelopment costs of the Richardson Olmsted Complex have exceeded $100 million, $76 million of which was funded by Empire State Development.

To provide an idea of the scope of the project: Mechanical, electrical and plumbing costs accounted for $17 million, refurbishing 600 windows cost over $7 million while updating and installing elevators resulted in a $4 million bill.

Eight buildings – nearly two-thirds of the complex – are not yet redeveloped. Only 160,000 square feet (3.7 acres) of the 93-acre complex are finished.

The redevelopment is being billed as “adaptive reuse,” a term being used with increasing frequency to describe such projects due to its appeal as a middle ground between preservation lobbyists and economic developers.

Monica Pellegrino, Executive Director of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, Paul Hojnacki, president of the Richardson Center Corporation Board, Rene Jones, vice chair of M&T Bank (which donated $1.25 million to the project), Mayor of Buffalo Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also spoke at the event.

Edwin Viera contributed to this story. 

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