The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation's (ECHDC) Board of Directors received initial reports this morning from the three subcommittees charged with initiating activity on Buffalo's waterfront this summer. The committees are: Historic District (Jordan Levy, chair), Outer Harbor (David Colligan, chair), and Buffalo River (Julie Barrett O'Neill, chair.) ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy called for the creation of the subcommittees after an intense period of public input that included six "Open House" style meetings, a public hearing and hundreds of comments from the community.
Chairman Jordan Levy's Historic District committee recommends the opening of a café on the ground floor of the Naval Museum. In addition, the committee encourages a variety of food vendors on the southern portion of the Central Wharf. Bathroom and shower facilities will be constructed for boaters using the docks. The committee is also studying the feasibility of laying down a temporary asphalt bike lane in order to connect the Central Wharf with the existing bike trail that extends behind the DL&W building and down to Festival Park. Long term plans for the district call for a mixed use neighborhood that is connected and integrated with downtown Buffalo and incorporates commercial, residential and cultural uses. The committee includes developers, preservationists and event planners.
"This is the place where Buffalo began, and its reinvigoration will be the key to our future," said Levy. "This area has already made great strides with the opening of the Commercial Slip and the Central Wharf, as well as our successful summer programming. We are going to build on that success with expanded programs, food and facilities."
Board member David Colligan leads the Outer Harbor committee, which brings together entrepreneurs, landscape architects, outdoor enthusiasts, and urban planners. Plans under consideration for the Outer Harbor include the creation of Lakefront Meadows Park, a sand covered Gallagher Beach, opportunities for vendors, establishing a water taxi to the Inner Harbor, and improving the existing infrastructure of docks and breakwalls.
"What makes the Outer Harbor so exciting are the almost limitless possibilities that it presents," said Colligan. "We have the ability to create quality greenspace, increase facilities for boaters, and create opportunities for small businesses - and that's just the beginning."
The Buffalo River subcommittee is headed by newly appointed board member and Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, Julie Barrett O'Neill. Short term plans will focus on providing support to activities and projects already underway in this bustling corridor. She emphasized the need for branding and marketing, trail connections and heritage interpretation, grain elevator revitalization, activities and programming and bridge interpretation.
"The Buffalo River is the natural connection between the Historic District and the Outer Harbor. What distinguishes this area is the fact that it is a real neighborhood, filled with people who are already working hard to create a vibrant place. Branding this area will help to establish it as a unique destination in the minds of Western New Yorkers and will buttress the work already being done by the residents of the district. In addition, we are looking at ways to improve the signage and wayfinding materials. Finally, looking towards the long term, we are going to convene a meeting of all of the grain elevator owners on the river. These structures will loom large in any long range planning, and dialogue among their owners is essential."
ECHDC President Thomas P. Dee noted that the Cultural subcommittee has received over 45 applications from groups that are interested in participating in programming at Canal Side this summer. He stressed that once that once the Board of Directors has evaluated the ideas from the subcommittees and made recommendations, the staff of ECHDC will work quickly to implement them.