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Ambitious stage of Richardson Olmsted Complex redevelopment is completed

The site of a former hospital for the mentally ill will soon be reborn as a hotel and architecture musem and education center. Officials at the Richardson Olmsted Complex marked the completion Tuesday of a busy three-year stage of reconstruction.

Work began three years ago to rehabilitate the first three of eleven buildings on the complex, which were built in the late 1800s hosted the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. That work has been completed, said officials with the Richardson Center Corporation, the not-for-profit organization which owns the site.

"The three buildings, the iconic towers building and one on either side, have been transformed into a hotel, a restaurant, event space and architecture center," said Richardson Center Corporation president Paul Hojnacki. "Today marks the completion of an intense rehabilitation of phase one."

The cost of redevelopment, including building stabilization, site work and landscaping, is estimated at $102.5 million dollars. Most of the funds come from New York State while $16 million in tax credits arranged by M&T Bank also figure in the financing. A capital campaign has also been held to collect private donations. Last November, the project received a $5 million donation from the late longtime Buffalo News publisher Stanford Lipsey and his widow Judith as a challenge grant. According to information released Tuesday by the Richardson Center Corporation, about $3 million in matching funds has been raised to date. 

"It's been a massive undertaking to modernize this complex," Hojnacki said. "This last phase, we spent about $69 million and it included all of the mechanicals, the electrical, the plumbing. We restored over 600 original windows and we inserted some elevators into the building to bring it up to code as well."

The redevelopment of the towers building also included the construction of a glass front that shelters the brick face and original entrance from the elements. Work is still underway inside the buildings, including painting and the installation of furniture, cabinetry and drapery. 

When finished, the buildings will be home to the Hotel Henry Urban Resort and the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center. A soft opening for the hotel is expected in April, while the opening of the architecture center is scheduled for December.

The eight other buildings on the complex are also eyed for redevelopment though plans for those buildings have not been finalized.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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