The arson attack that swept through the newly renovated banquet center of the former Buffalo Grand Hotel late last December caused more than $50.1 million in damage that hotel owner Harry Stinson said. he was trying to recover from his insurer.
This tally reported by Stinson far exceeds the firefighters’ initial estimate of around $3 million – by more than 16 times – due to the extent of collateral damage caused not only by the flames, but also by the water. used to extinguish the fire and the subsequent freeze-thaw cycle of the winter months.
Meanwhile, the hotel still hasn’t reopened, leaving Stinson without any income. So he’s eager to get a settlement with his insurer, Travelers, and he’s hired a New York law firm that specializes in large insurance claims. More than 10,000 pages of documents are involved so far, he said, although he hopes to avoid a court battle.
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But the Canadian developer, who bought and rebranded the former Adam’s Mark Hotel as Buffalo Grand and now Ramada by Wyndham Buffalo Downtown, says he’s not giving up on the project that has already cost him tens of millions of dollars in investment, including the $17 million purchase price. The building was insured for $100 million for replacement, plus $10 million for business interruption coverage.
“I have no intention of walking away from it, but the chances are so great,” he said on Thursday. “It’s not something where you mix it up and worry about insurance later.”
The three-alarm fire on December 30 engulfed the Grand Ballroom and adjoining areas above the parking ramp at the Church Street hotel complex. Investigators at the time said the morning fire started in either the commercial kitchen or the ballroom, but Stinson said it was mostly concentrated in the center section of the event space at the third floor, between the two rooms.
This is where rolls and rolls of new hotel carpets were stored, still wrapped in plastic and intended for use in the main ballroom downstairs. Stinson said that’s where the evidence shows the attacker intentionally made multiple attempts to start the fire before finally succeeding in lighting the mats, possibly with an accelerant.
“It wasn’t a spark that blew in the wind. It was a fire that was deliberately started, because it was lit in multiple places,” he said. “The conflagration unfolded in one big pile, and they’re all fire-treated hotel carpets. It took a little extra work to get them going, but once they started, it was hell.”
Fire investigators previously estimated that temperatures may have reached 2,000 degrees in one area. “You could see the cast iron on the steel beams,” Stinson said. “It couldn’t have been in a worse place. Everything above and around melted.”
But the effort to contain and extinguish the blaze also contributed to the resulting damage, as firefighters poured water into a room on the third floor, which is 42,000 square feet, so you have a large splash pool. , and this wading pool freezes and then it thaws, Stinson says.
“The rest of the building suffered tremendously,” Stinson said. “The collateral damage is phenomenal.”
Now the focus is on bringing the building back online, which was much slower and more tedious than expected.
While the rooms are intact and could reopen within 60 days, the fire system and other functions in the building’s event area still need to be repaired before guests can return.
The developer said it expects to be able to fully reopen by the end of the year.