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Preservation Board approves Statler's next restoration plan

Mike Desmond

After a contentious meeting of the Buffalo Preservation Board Thursday, the board approved a $3 million exterior restoration of the first two floors of the Statler Towers.

Developer Mark Croce said he has returned his focus to the Statler after his conversion of the old Curtiss Building to the Curtiss Hotel, just up the street from the Statler.

Working with a partial demolition permit from City Hall, workers have been burrowing into the exterior walls of the Statler. They have found problems, possibilities and needs. Pedestrians on the building's periphery can see the excavations on the outside of the structure, often bad work done years ago.

Croce said he is in a hurry, with the construction season well underway.

"At the end of the day, we've done everything in our power to find a way to save this building and to make it shine again," he said. "We've been asked by the mayor and others for a number of years: When are you going to get started on the ground level? I said once we finish the Curtiss and once we finish the Emerson school, this is next in line. We need to attack it this summer while we have good weather because, once winter comes, you know what it's like to try to work on Delaware Avenue."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Developer Mar Croce (r) describes his restoration plan.

Much of the meeting revolved around Preservation Board members' concern about the planned use of a material called GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete), instead of the terra cotta used nearly a century ago to build the towering structure. Several board members were concerned GFRC may not hold up in the local climate, although it has on other local projects.

"We're just trying to get it so that you get all the GFRCs together and try to fix any single one-offs in the middle, even if you are removing perfectly fine terra cotta that was in place," said Board Chair Gwen Howard. "Put it where the other terra cotta is and put the GFRCs together."

Croce said it is too expensive to use terra cotta today. Architect Ray Bednarski said it has been an excavation process.

"We got a permit from the city for some partial demos so we could explore some areas," Bednarski said. "What we found, if you are familiar with the building and have seen the report, is that there is this pink faux marble that's actually polished concrete panels that were put on the building some time in the '50s or '60s. As we tore some of those away, we found that behind those was actually the original rusticated terra cotta that you see on much of the rest of the building."

Finally, Croce and the board agreed if unexpected serious problems come up, there will be a return to the board for some decisions. The entire plan was then approved.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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