BUFFALO, N.Y. — With big-league baseball back in Buffalo for the meantime and a whole new look at Seneca One, downtown Buffalo is making a comeback. For developer Douglas Jemal, the Statler will be a key part of that.
"It's a Buffalo jewel that should be preserved for the next hundreds of years," said Douglas Jemal, the founder and president of Douglas Development Corporation.
Jemal hopes to transform the former Statler Hotel into a mixed-use structure featuring apartments, retail, meeting and entertainment space.
He purchased the property last year following the death of his late friend and fellow developer Mark Croce. Croce is credited with renovating the Statler's lobby levels into bar and event space and starting work on replacing a crumbling façade.
"This as we all know was here and established,” Jemal said. “May he rest in peace, Mark Croce did that. He did a great job in preserving it. What we took on was what you don't see, the inside, we did surgery."
That involved asbestos abatement in the lower level of the building and removing antiquated parts like pipes and machinery. On the outside, storefronts are being restored as the Statler's upper levels are slated to house 600 to 700 residential units to be completed in the next 12 to 15 months.
"This investment in this building is going to be well over $150 million," Mayor Byron Brown (D) said.
Jemal offered up a tour to Mayor Brown Tuesday amid the ongoing renovations that aim to breathe new life into a historic jewel that was once at risk of facing the wrecking ball.
"I feel like I can bring something to the city and I want to do it," said Jemal.