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Is a new casino on Buffalo's horizon?

WBFO file photo
Statler City as seen from Niagara Square.

The new owner of Statler City admits he has “no plan” for the former hotel in downtown Buffalo. But as WBFO’s Chris Caya reports, the Washington based developer may end up rolling the dice and giving the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino a run for its money.  

Douglas Jemal, the developer revitalizing Seneca One — the region’s tallest building — is now taking on Statler City. He bought the 19-story building on Niagara Square from Jessica Croce, the widow of Mark Croce who died in a helicopter crash in January. Croce said she’s grateful Jemal is taking Mark’s vision for the Statler — and taking it to another level.     

“Our brides will finally have a beautiful building to walk into. And we’re coming into a beautiful partnership of Statler City and we’re coming into the new Statler that will be redone. And we couldn’t be more happy, and honored, that Doug is going to be taking that from us,” Croce said.

Jemal said he misses Mark and that they were very much alike.  

“We went where people don’t go. When somebody says it’s good, it’s bad. When someone says it’s bad, it’s good. We always danced to our own drummer. And that’s what it takes to put something back together again. Both of us were Humpty Dumpty type of guys. What once were can be again,” Jemal said.

Jemal called the nearly 100-year-old building “a gem” and that Buffalo’s fortunate that Croce had the vision to save it. And like Croce — Jemal says it should be part of the Convention Center — could be “economically modernized.”

“I think that the Statler could serve as a masterpiece for this convention center and they should be connected. I think that it’s something that we could do fast and furious rather than a billion dollar project or a $500 million project. In these economic times we’re never going to have the money to do it,” Jemal said.

The old hotel has about 1100 rooms, but Jemal said it’ll become mixed use.

“I also see and have a vision possibly of having gaming in the Statler as well so that it becomes a beacon for downtown and this circle," but everything’s open, he Jemal.

“Business is fluid. There is no plan. The plan is not to plan. The plan is let that building speak for itself,” he added.

Dave Debo's journalism career runs the gamut from public radio to commercial radio, from digital projects to newspapers. With over 30 years of experience, he's produced national television news programs and has worked as both a daily and weekly print journalist and web editor.
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