Harry Stinson’s “Grand” Vision Comes To Fruition

It was back in 2018 that Canadian investor and developer Harry Stinson purchased the Adam’s Mark hotel in Downtown Buffalo, close to Canalside. Since that time, Stinson has contemplated a number of strategic redevelopment options (including building a condo tower), while coordinating a plan of attack for the monstrous building. 

Yesterday, I got a chance to meet up with Stinson at the Buffalo Grand Hotel, to discuss some of the renovations that are currently underway. I must say that I was happily surprised at the amount of work that has been completed, including the unveiling of a small ancillary banquet room that he spun off from the main hotel dining room. He did this by installing a brick wall (to create a dedicated space), laying down wood floors, adding comfortable banquette and booth seating, painting, relighting… the works. The new space, complete with piano, is perfect for seating around 100 people for wedding spinoff parties, Stinson told me.

This room on the first floor, off the hotel dining room, was dated, dingy, and dark maroon – in fact, maroon was sadly the color of choice for many venue rooms at the Adam’s Mark hotel.

At the moment, Stinson is busy updating all of the impractical outdated venues in the building. Take, for example, the former Erie Ballroom on the first floor. By removing a giant wall, the ballroom has gone from 500-person capacity to being able to accommodate 800 guests (now with natural light). It’s a welcome improvement, but it’s only a small part of the transformation that is underway in the building.

A significant wall that stretched the length of the room has been removed, to increase capacity by 300 guests. New carpeting, and no more maroon paint. Notice the natural light, thanks to the absence of the wall?

Stinson is concentrating on the hotel’s substantial event spaces because there is a need for them in Buffalo, he told me.

“Buffalo is a city that is full of small and medium venues… 200-300 people capacity covers most of them,” said Stinson. “Then, there is the Convention Center, but that is dated. The Buffalo Grand Hotel will become a destination for the bigger events, once I am finished making it functional. Altogether, we can fit 7000 people at a time, which is significant for this city. We can also accommodate smaller events, depending on what people are looking for. The most important thing right now is to update the venues, and rethink how everything works and flows together.”

The pool is being filled in, to make way for a meeting and conference room, with direct access to an outdoor courtyard with bar. Another pool will be built towards the back of the hotel.

While there are some exciting improvements underway downstairs, it’s upstairs that Stinson is especially excited about. It all starts with the pool area. The indoor pool is being filled in, to create a meeting and conference room that will have direct access to an outdoor sunlit courtyard and bar. Another pool will be built towards the back of the hotel.

“The pool was in the wrong place,” said Stinson. “It was built when there was a tennis club up here. The tennis club was 42,000 square feet – then it became a venue, which is now dated. The first thing we did was take down all the walls that we could. Moving forward it’s going to be a massive room for weddings, concerts, and conventions. Like everything else, we’re remodeling, updating, and livening it up. There will be a giant stainless steel bar, with eight bartending stations. We’re painting the brass chandeliers a dramatic red. We’re also exposing the massive columns that were added to support the arched roof  over the tennis courts – we’re coating the columns with Intumescent fireproof paint. There’s going to be a reception area in front, with the concert stage in back. Opposite the concert stage we’re putting in balconies with bottle booths. On either side of the stage will be two video walls, with ceiling mounted projectors for amazing visuals. It’s going to be like watching a concert at a drive-in movie theater. Once finished, there will be nothing like this in WNY.”

One… big… room = a reception area and seating for 4390 people

Talking to Sinson, it’s easy to tell that he’s having fun. He’s been doing this sort of thing for most of his life after all, so it comes naturally to him. He’s proud of his accomplishments, which he is happy to show off now that they are fully underway or reaching completion stage.

“It’s going to be big and dramatic,” Stinson told me. “Since I’ve been in Buffalo, nobody has taken me seriously, so I’m just going to do it, on my own nickel. I want it to be original. This place will be full of ‘selfie moments,’ with lots of cool features. I’ve been evaluating the market, to see what is most needed in Buffalo, and this is what I’ve come up with. It’s what the building best lends itself to. I think that people will really like it when it’s finished. At this point, there’s a lot more work to do… we’ve got 360 guest rooms booked this weekend (out of 486 rooms), and we’re starting to do walkthroughs on Tuesday with our clients, to show them them what we’re up to. We’ve done this while remaining open for business. We should be ready for a final showing in November.”

Stinson reimagines the previously dated look of the facility, with vibrant red chandeliers.

From soup to nuts – removing walls, exposing previously boxed-in columns, soundproofing, carpeting, painting – the Buffalo Grand Hotel is coming along nicely. Stinson told me that despite not being able to find enough people that want to work, he’s committed to getting the project done on schedule. That means that he’s in ‘hands-on’ mode, working with contractors to ensure that everything is up to his aesthetic and quality standards. And he’s patiently anticipating the day that he can unveil the results to the public.

Support structures were previously boxed inside wall units. Now they will be exposed, which will provide sweeping sightlines within the venue.

Not only will the hotel and conference center be ideal for weddings, it will also be a premier concert venue for national acts. Located at the back of the stage, off the kitchen, will be a hallway where performers will have direct access to the stage. The performers, VIP guests, stage and AV hands, promoters, etc., will be provided with a private facility (former ROAR Logistics offices), where they can relax, entertain, and even hang out on a private patio that overlooks the city. All of this is still under construction, but will be ready to go soon enough.

The stage will be inset into the wall, with video screens on either side… and no more maroon walls. Opposite the stage, balconies will be hung from the ceilings, with bottle booths.
‘Back of the house’ – a two-story former office will be converted into a staging area for performers, crew, and VIP guests, with a private patio overlooking the city for entertaining.

Stinson described the process of pulling this all together as a Rubik’s Cube. He’s figured out all of the logistics for hosting smoothly-orchestrated shows, while operating a hotel and conference center at the same time.

“I’ve got 7 acres to play with – it’s going to be a little village when I’m done,” said Stinson. “We’re updating the rooms bit by bit, putting in new hallway carpeting throughout, chewing away at the decor, getting the venues ready, and tackling everything that was outdated and falling apart. My philosophy at this point is, ‘Just do it, and show them afterwards.’”

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