By Karen Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
Have you wondered about what’s happening, if anything, at the former Radisson Hotel site at 100 Whitehaven Road?
The architectural firm involved in the conversion of the former Radisson Hotel into apartments and mixed-use operations gave a status update at Monday’s Grand Island Town Board workshop meeting. At the regular meeting, council members, in turn, granted the one-year extension developers sought for their project.
Mike Conroe of ELEV8 Architecture explained what has held up progress at the site.
“We have received the word from the National Park Service that the project has been awarded historic tax credits on the property, which is why we haven’t been able to physically start any modifications on that building,” he said.
“If you do any work prior to receiving the tax credits, that’s not eligible to be reimbursed through that program. So, over the past year, we’ve been waiting for that approval, and we just got it this week,” Conroe said.
He called this the “part one” approval and said part two involves sending plans to the National Park Service and getting its OK on them.
“Basically, what they’re looking for is, are we keeping the spaces the same as they should be historically, are we keeping the same historic finishes,” he explained.
Conroe said historic qualification is based on the age of the facility – at least 50 years – and if the building has some historic significance, such as a story behind it.
“Ghosts,” replied Town Attorney Peter Godfrey to the idea of the “story behind it.”
“Haunted,” said Deputy Supervisor Pete Marston, amid some laughs from those gathered at the workshop.
They echoed the oft-repeated anecdotes of a resident ghost who came with the building that first was the Grand Island Holiday Inn, then Byblos Niagara resort and spa.
Conroe’s more serious answer: “It’s a one-of-a-kind building that we don’t believe is really going to be replicated or allowed to be replicated on the Island. It’s one of the original planned communities on the Island. It was catering to tourists who came from all over the world for years – couple famous people stayed there. So, with that, they agreed with our argument that it was a historic building.”
Council member Mike Madigan asked about the value of the tax credits in relation to the total cost of the conversion to new use. Conroe said the amount is significant and is determined by median income of the area.
“Since the median income of the area is much higher than the rest of Western New York, we get less,” he noted. “But it’s significant enough to make it worthwhile. It’s 20% of any renovations you do. So, it’s spectacular.”
ELEV8 Architecture figures it’s a six- to eight-month process to get the approval even before you put a shovel in the ground.
“We’ve put in – I checked with the accountants this morning – over $2.5 million already to the hotel just to do the drawings, do all the environmental studies we had to do to deal with the historic people, pay the gas bill – you know, all that fun stuff – pay the mortgage on it. So, it’s been a significant investment,” Conroe said.
“We have had some issues, which you’re fully aware of,” he said of the former Radisson site.
Marston said, speaking for himself and not the whole board, “We’ve heard a lot of break-ins. We’ve had a lot of fire department calls.” He said one could see the grass has grown wild.
Conroe acknowledged that, over a three-week period earlier this year, there had been the problems Marston cited, including a high number of break-ins and fire alarms going off. He said he had gone out and talked to the Grand Island police and fire departments each time an issue occurred.
“What was happening is, kids were breaking in, they were taking fire extinguishers in the building and spraying them all over the place, setting off fire alarms,” he said.
Conroe said an employee was supposed to be in the building eight hours a day but, “Come to find out, he was there for maybe an hour every other week.”
That employee was let go and a new man replaced him. “Ever since we brought him in, the new gentleman has secured the building, and we haven’t had another break-in,” Conroe said.
His colleague at the workshop meeting, Bill Mahoney, said mowing and plowing will be done at the site, as well.
Conroe said revised redevelopment plans have established that there will be 80 hotel rooms as part of the mixed-use. The south tower, six floors, would be multi-family apartments.
Madigan said he wanted assurances that ELEV8 principals would make the property look presentable.
ELEV8 said the best look it could present would be putting a construction fence around the property.
As to the timeline, ELEV8 said constructing a hotel and apartments combination could take 10 months to a year. With supply chain issues affecting electrical service completion, an outside figure of 80 weeks was floated, putting a finished project within the year 2025.
A request for a one-year extension came up for Radisson redevelopment at the regular Town Board meeting.
The board approved, by unanimous vote, a one-year extension of the detailed plan and rezoning approvals granted by the Town Board on Nov. 18, 2022.
The applicants are listed as JB Earl Company of Utah and ELEV8 Architecture of Orchard Park.
A recent look at the property at 100 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island.