Alternative to controversial hotel proposed to Buffalo, N.Y. business owners and residents

Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Buffalo, New York —

Residents and business owners in the Elmwood Avenue neighborhood and surrounding area in Buffalo heard a competing proposal for development in their neighborhood at the February 22 meeting held at the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, at Buffalo State College. The meeting, attended by at least 140, was originally to consider the Elmwood Village Hotel but also included a new revitalization proposal from Rocco Termini which would increase retail space, but involves less demolition and no hotel.

Rocco Termini, a Buffalo, New York developer wants to develop the corner of Elmwood and Forest, the same spot where Savarino Construction Services Corporation want to build the Elmwood Village Hotel.

Termini proposed that a similar revitalization take place on the intersection like one that incorporated 3 buildings on Aurburn and Elmwood just last year. Termini’s proposal will add more retail space than Savarino’s proposal with the possibility of including up to seven retail outlets.

“I just think it’s necessary to preserve the streetscape that we have. That’s the whole point of living and shopping on Elmwood,” said Termini. “You should be able to go into little shops, that have unique items, and that bring people to Elmwood. When you bring a big box on Elmwood Avenue, it takes something away from the urban-streetscape, just as suburban areas do not want a big box Wal-Mart. We don’t want a big box on Elmwood avenue and I think that’s just what this (the hotel) does, brings a big box to Elmwood,” said Termini.

When asked if there were any development companies currently interested in his proposal Termini said, “I will be willing to take a look at this myself,” said Termini. “Or I would be more than happy to be partners with Sam, Sam Savarino,” who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Savarino Construction Services Corp.

An unnamed source close to the project stated, “Rocco has serious concerns that the Mobius’s asking price could make his project infeasible.”

It is unknown if Savarino Construction or the city of Buffalo will consider Termini’s proposal.

Termini purchased and developed several buildings and areas including the Ellicott Lofts on Ellicott Street in Buffalo, which opened in 2003, The Oak School Lofts which used to be a Buffalo Alternative School, and ‘IS’ Lofts on Oak Street in Buffalo.

Eva Hassett, Vice President of Savarino Construction, and Karl Frizlen an architect from The Frizlen Group and designer of the hotel commented on the development proposal. Hassett said, “We’ve been thinking about it and trying to put it together for the last few months, and it was made public a couple of weeks ago.”

“There are lots of different areas you can look at. This is an Elmwood Avenue hotel. Putting it somewhere else makes a completely different kind of hotel. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the business on Elmwood. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the Albright Knox Art Gallery. This is really a location for this kind of hotel. Other locations end up being for other kinds of hotels,” said Hassett

“We are excited about the concept of a boutique hotel at this corner. We think it makes sense to the various businesses in the area or the galleries just down the street. We also believe that this is a way for the visitors of Buffalo to experience what the best of what Buffalo has to offer. We think it will be a great way for people from out of town, to get to know what we know about the city,” said Hassett.

Although Hassett had said that the proposal has only been around “for a few months”, Karl Frizlen said that he came up with the idea “three years ago when Hans Mobius,” former owner of the properties at risk, “came to me and asked what we could do with these properties.” Frizlen also said that he introduced Mobius to “four different developers, who after seeing the properties, did not want to tackle them, saying that they felt like it was too much for them to take on.”

Hans Mobius did not attend last nights meeting.

Frizlen is also designing the former telephone company building at 504 Elmwood which would be a “mixed use building with retail on the lowest level and lofts on the other two floors.”

After speeches from developers, residents and business owners were invited to present questions and comments.

Mark Freelend, a Buffalo resident, and local artist, said “I’m looking at my house in the picture, and I’m picturing all the houses on Granger street behind me, and I’m realizing that, if this is implemented (the hotel), we will get zero sunlight. The Sun is supposed to be free, for everyone. The people on Granger are going to have eighty windows looking at them and their children being raised, and playing in the backyard, guests looking in the windows of their houses twenty-four hours a day. A million people starring into their houses. No sunlight, and they are on permanent reality TV. Put a price on that!”

“I think this hotel is totally out of scale to the area and it does not conform to the style (of Elmwood) at all. It will totally obscure the gateway of Elmwood. The gateway now has open arms that allow for passage and view into the commercial corridor. This hotel stands as a brick wall as far as I can tell,” said Nancy Pollina one of the owners of Don Apparel at 1119 Elmwood. Pollina referenced to the recent ‘revitalization’ project on Auburn and Elmwood saying, “That building was boarded up for years, and that was beautiful a renovation. That building was not in any less need of repair than Hans Mobius’s properties.”

Both residents and business owners in the area are concerned that the proposal is moving too quickly and said that the developers should wait before having any city meetings and wait for a consensus from the community on the hotel.

Mrs. Pollina said, “I think people feel passionate about their neighborhood, and this is their neighborhood. I feel that what was most shocking is that the city’s planning board meeting and Common Council meeting, which are they need to push this through, is next week without almost no notice. This (the proposal) is being rushed.

However; Sam Savarino did say that “some people have gotten emotional about this project. And I want to let the community know that we will listen to what you have to say. We’re not forcing this down anybody’s throat. If this is not something this community wants, we do not want to have it here.”

The city’s Planning Board is expected to meet on February 28, 2006 at 8:00am in room 901 on the 9th floor of City Hall. The city’s Legislative Committee meeting of Common Council is expected to take place on the same day at 2:00pm in Council Chambers on the 13th floor of City Hall.

It has just been confirmed from an unnamed source close to the project that “significant changes” will be made to the design of the Elmwood Village Hotel. “Its not being cancelled, just redesigned,” he said. The changes are not yet known, but they are could be released “tomorrow. He (Savarino) doesn’t want it released until he touches base with a few people today.”

United States: At least fifteen dead in Southern California after rain causes mudslides and floods

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On Tuesday, the first major rain storm of the year in Southern California led to flooding that has caused at least fifteen deaths, mainly in Santa Barbara County. The flooding was exacerbated by last month’s wildfires; particularly hard-hit was the wealthy community of Montecito, downstream of the site of the Thomas Fire, where at least six houses were destroyed. More than 160 people have been hospitalized, four in critical condition.

According to the United States National Weather Service, five and a half inches of rain has fallen over two days in parts of Ventura County, and more than four inches in parts of Santa Barbara County. In areas burned by the wildfires, ground cover that would have reduced runoff had been destroyed, and an impermeable layer of ash and burned soil had been created. As a result, torrents of mud ran downhill and inundated places such as Montecito. Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said homes in the wealthy community had been “wiped away from their foundations” by mudflows, which also burst a gas main, leading to a fire that destroyed another building.

Sections of the 101 freeway were closed by flooding; a driver told television station KTLA that mud came “out of nowhere” and covered the highway in “about five seconds” and that he was glad he was still alive. James Cook, the Los Angeles correspondent for BBC News, reported that roads were being blocked by “boulders the size of small cars” which had tumbled down the hills. BBC also reported, 300 people had been trapped in Romero Canyon. Bill Brown, the Sheriff of Santa Barbara County, said at mid-afternoon that the number of deaths had reached thirteen and might rise. He described the flood-ravaged areas as looking “like a World War I battlefield” and said that emergency dispatchers had fielded some 600 calls between 3:00 and 6:00 am.

Emergency services including the Ventura County Aviation Unit were kept busy rescuing people. The Coast Guard sent aircraft to assist. Spokesmen reported fifty people had been rescued in each of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties. Montecito resident, Berkeley Johnson, told the Santa Barbara Independent that he and his wife had taken refuge on the roof of their house but climbed came down when they heard a child crying. With a fireman’s help were able to dig out a two-year-old girl, who looked like a “muddy doll” according to Johnson.

Officials issued evacuation orders on Monday for thousands of people living in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties, but Montecito was under only voluntary evacuation. Some of the evacuation orders were lifted later on Tuesday as the rain became lighter.

New Jersey officials: Stimulus bill hurting Atlantic City casinos

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A New Jersey congressman says restrictions on federal stimulus money are hurting gaming destinations like Atlantic City, and he is seeking to repeal a provision banning the use of funds for casinos or other gaming establishments.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Is Ken Calemmo right to suggest that the gaming industry is as important as manufacturing, retail or finance?
Add or view comments

“The demonization of gaming destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City for business travel is wrong, wrong, wrong,” U.S. Rep Frank LoBiondo said Friday during a press conference in front of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The $787 billion federal stimulus bill passed in February specifically prohibits casinos from applying for funds for infrastructure improvements and other similar projects. LoBiondo said Atlantic City is losing millions of dollars in business as a result of that provision.

Casinos’ revenues dropped 19.2 percent in February 2009 month compared to February 2008, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. LoBiondo said $160 million worth of business and 120,000 visitors have chosen other cities for their tourism plans due to the stimulus bill, according to Atlantic City Convention Center figures.

The administration also recently determined other groups like nonprofit organizations and local governments may not spend their stimulus money at casino properties. State officials said the rules are damaging a major pillar of the New Jersey economy.

“Are those jobs somehow less important or less meaningful than those in the manufacturing, retail or financial industries?” said Ken Calemmo, chairman-elect of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

Anti-gambling officials said the stimulus law does not prohibit casinos from taking advantage of tax breaks, and Atlantic City officials should not complain about the stimulus bill because the city is too reliant on an unreliable revenue stream.

“There isn’t a state, including New Jersey or Nevada, that could gamble themselves rich, any more than an individual could gamble themselves rich,” said Tom Grey, field director for StopPredatoryGambling.org. “They should’ve diversified (the economy) instead of chasing their loss.”

But Joe Kelly, chamber president, said 35,000 people work at New Jersey casinos, and thousands more around the state work for outside vendors that depend on casinos for their business.

“It is not just an Atlantic County issue. It is not just a Cape May issue,” Kelly said. “There’s purchasing done by every county.”

LoBiondo is working to repeal the provision with U.S. Rep Shelly Berkley, co-chair of the Congressional Gaming Cascus, and has reached out to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has a history of representing the interests of the gaming industry.