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Part 1: Rolling on the River

When I first pulled up to Riverkeeper’s new offices on Niagara Street (1250 between Auburn and Breckenridge), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The organization has been busy working on the 2700 sq.’ interior since they moved in December 27th, 2007. In that time period, Riverkeeper and Executive Director Julie O’Neill has been organizing workers to transform the formerly vacant shell into a colorful office environment that she, twelve employees and three interns can all call ‘home’. And colorful it is… Mike Hamilton who is on the Board of Directors made sure that the office was full of open space and comforting color combinations. “We had the concrete floors sanded to down to expose the natural aggregate (see who did the work). When we moved in the interior was literally just a concrete shell. We kept the exposed wood beams, but we knocked out walls to open it up. We have a functional kitchen in the back, giant storage lab space, room to grow, and we’re really close to the water.”

Up until now, Riverkeeper has been occupying a smaller office at the Market Arcade building… “But we ran out of room,” Julie told me. “I had people working from their homes due to lack of room. Bill Breeser bought this building (formerly housed Quality Bindery Services) a year ago and ended up coming to one of our meetings. We started talking and before I knew it we had a new office. More businesses need to start taking advantage of Niagara Street. It’s close to the water, there are bike paths and parks, it’s near the Peace Bridge and there are great buildings. Bill now owns a few buildings near here and he is making a point of bringing back this street. We’ve already talked about ways of beautifying the facade of this building. What people may not know is that this part of Niagara Street is historically called Upper Rock (part of Black Rock). There is so much potential here… fishing, kayaking, watching the rowers go by. And there are nearby restaurants like Marco’s and Santasiero’s (and Boomerangs). I believe that there are great things to come from Niagara Street. Up until this point we have been squandering this part of the waterfront. Instead of talking about the Outer Harbor, we should be looking to see what we can do to get this part of the city operating again.”

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