Monday, March 15, 2021

Opinions differ on Hotel Henry developer


Hotel Henry
By Rhiannon Browning

           Douglas Jemal, the proposed developer of Hotel Henry on the Richardson Olmsted Campus, is making favorable promises in advance of his takeover, but there have been differing opinions as to whether he is genuine.

            Jemal is negotiating to take over the 88-room hotel that closed Feb. 27. He already owns Seneca One Tower, Statler City and the Boulevard Mall and is about to acquired the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

            Tim Tielman, the director at the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, believes the hotel’s closure is not the end of the complex, he doesn’t think Jemal has good intentions for taking over.

            “His past redevelopments are ludicrous and antiurban to me,” Tielman said.

            Tielman has been involved in the project since the beginning of the reconstruction in 2002. He said that the state wasn’t originally going to spend money on the complex, but after finding a law that says New York has to maintain the structure of state landmarks, Tielman decided he was going to negotiate.

            “We basically told the state that they can either spend money on every single landmark that needs restoration or you can give us the money for this one building and we won’t make this a bigger deal,” Tielman said.

            The state put $75 million toward the complex which resulted in a design team of architects from all over the nation.

            Since becoming interested in Hotel Henry, Jemal has offered to reimburse couples the deposits on receptions had been cancelled when the hotel announced its closing. Tielman said that the notion of Jemal promoting this job as a charity is wrong.

            “He’s telling everyone there’s going to be playgrounds and everyone is going to get their money back and things are going to be changed, but the reality is that there is a master plan you have to follow,” Tielman said.

            Tielman said that the master plan works in favor of preservation because developers  have to follow those guidelines.

            Of the firms involved in the original reconstruction was Flynn Battaglia Architects. Peter Flynn, said that this project was one of the firm’s best accomplishments in regards to maintaining the history of the landmark.

            “It was really a really enjoyable project respecting the historic legacy of what is and was the Richardson Olmsted complex,” Flynn said.

            Flynn said that he and the partnering firms decided to design the restoration with the original layout in mind because most people have never been in the building. This was an opportunity for people to gain a better understanding of why a landmark like this should be preserved. In regard to Jemal’s plans in taking over, Flynn is excited to see what he will do with the campus.

            “There’s a very optimistic report on what’s happening with Jemal’s offer to take over the campus and renovate it,” Flynn said.

            A spokesperson for Jemal says that the transition between developments have not been finalized yet.

            “At the moment, we do not own the Richardson or Hotel Henry. We will have to wait until it is final or did not go through,” Sean Heidinger said.