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Canal Plans Revealed

Today the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) revealed their comprehensive plan for Buffalo’s inner harbor. The exciting mixed-use master plan will provide the framework for nearly 725,000 square feet of entertainment, hotel, office, retail and residential uses.
Larry Quinn cautioned the crowd not to think of the retail and entertainment portion of the development as a “lifestyle” center. “This will be all Buffalo,” he said, “not a knock-off.” He also suggested that the Buffalo history and flavor would be captured in the commercial aspects of the development, while not so much the actual architecture.
“Come December of 2010, January of 2011, we’ll have the whole world in Buffalo,” Quinn said, referring to the World Junior Hockey Championship Tournament that will take place here.
“We were encouraged by the fact that people love to be on the water,” said Quinn. “This is our response to ‘There’s not much to do here’.”
Jordan Levy, chair of the ECHDC board stated, “We’re building on our three strengths: Bass Pro, HSBC and Lake Erie. We’ve had a million people come through here during our toughest time, and there is potential for 5 or 6 million people per year.”
Quinn added, “[The model] is what really sold Bass Pro on our commitment.”
The plan fully maintains a 150,000+ square feet, three-story “canal-era” Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World anchor store and over 200,000 square feet of additional retail space spread throughout the Canal Side district. The first phase will include re-watering of the canals, construction of the Bass Pro and development of the former Donovan State Office Building site.


Expected to break ground in fall or winter of 2009, the nearly $315M, 20-acre development will feature attractions including an above ground level canal, towpaths, locks, waterfalls, ice-skating, an underwater tunnel, a replicated milling wheel, canal boats and barges, shops, restaurants, vendors, museums and more.
Levy said that the above ground canal allows for spending on what people can see, rather than rerouting the existing infrastructure involving the Hamburg Drain, which would come at a higher cost.
The skyway exists in the model of the project because there is no definite plan or time frame for it’s removal, but beyond that, it is being considered for use as a frame above an outdoor marketplace. None of the vendors booths would be permanent buildings.
And in an effort to “turn liabilities into assets,” according to Levy, the ECHDC is looking at ways to incorporate art into the skyway and nearby grain silos. “We’ve spoken with Leo Villareal, who did the light installation at the Albright-Knox, and we brought Louis Grachos and Jennifer Steinkamp down here to look at the possibility of lighting the underbelly of the skyway and the elevators.”
In addition to innovations, Levy noted that from 1840 to the turn of the century, the population Buffalo grew tremendously. “And the residents were all focused on the waterfront,” Levy said. “We’re trying to recreate some of that.”
The Canal Side project will be funded through public and private investments including funds from New York Power Authority (NYPA), the Niagara Power Project Re-Licensing process, as well as state, local and federal entities. In addition, some design costs will be footed by Bass Pro Shops, along with substantial investment from Benderson Development and various future Canal Side tenants.
“Canal Side is really about harvesting the enormous untapped potential of Buffalo’s inner harbor, and creating a waterfront destination that becomes a truly special place in the hearts and minds of Western New Yorkers,” said Jordan Levy, Chairman, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. “We continue to be blessed with the unwavering support of the Governor, our Congressional delegation, the Mayor, the County Executive and many other enthusiastic local elected officials, and for that we remain extremely appreciative.”
“The vision for Canal Side is, and has always been, to create something attainable and extraordinary,” said Larry Quinn, Vice-Chairman, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. “We’re confident that the master plan achieves both of those objectives, and we encourage everyone to recognize the positive impact this project will have on our great city. The completion of Erie Canal Harbor is proof-positive that Western New York can get things done on the waterfront when we remedy our differences and pull collectively towards the greater goal.”


When fully complete, the project has the potential to generate approximately 1,000 new jobs, almost $9.5 million in annual sales-tax revenues and $1.2 million in new yearly property taxes for the City of Buffalo. Over the course of 20 years, the project will generate approximately $189 million in sales tax revenue.
It should be noted that the model doesn’t include existing Metro rail stations in anticipation of the city’s new Main Street multi-modal access and revitalization project.
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