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ECHDC Board Meeting: Aud Site, Inner Harbor Bridge and More

The Erie County Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) Board of Directors met today at 95 Perry Street and by phone with the New York City bureau to discuss contracts with various private contractors, the Aud demolition site and progress on the Harbor itself.

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium has been taken down, but its demolition was only one part of the fix.  According to Larry Quinn and Jordan Levy, Bass Pro officials have been very vocal about the site, submitting designs and keeping in regular contact with ECHDC about moving forward.  WNY builder Benderson has also working on designs, and Quinn discussed the likelihood of a public hearing in October to address the next stage of the project. 

“This will be a symbol of the renaissance of Western New York,” Director Jordan Levy said.  “We’ll deliver something that will exceed expectations.” 

On another note, DEMCO (the construction company contracted to demolish the Aud) managed to save historically significant stone and donated to the Buffalo Sabres Foundation at no cost to the taxpayer.  The stone will be cut up and sold as mementos by the foundation. 

The board also discussed the Inner Harbor Bridge proposal, as reported on Buffalo Rising.   Buffalo Harbor Bridge Senior Project Manager Steve Ranalli spoke about the terms of the project, which includes “an aggressive EIS (Environmental Impact Study)” on the site, meetings with the Coast Guard to determine the type of bridge and bridge height, and meetings with General Mills, in regard to any impact the bridge would have on the efficiency of their operations.  GM is looking for a bridge that will be best for Buffalo and for them.  Ranalli plans on finalizing project specifications by June 2011. 

Mayor Brown pointed out that this project would be Buffalo’s submission for a portion of a possible $300 million Federal T.I.G.E.R. (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant from New York State.  This project would require around $100 million.  The grant generally doles out money in $20-$30 million increments, and Buffalo would certainly not want to miss out on any of that money, according to Brown. 

“The Inner Harbor Bridge would be a community-based ask, to benefit the city and entire region,” Mayor Brown said.  “This would be a collaborative effort between the city and the ECHDC.” 

Jordan Levy mentioned that he will be meeting with Senator Schumer soon, and will certainly inform him that the entire region would benefit from Federal funds for the bridge.

Mayor Brown voiced his concerns over use of minority workers in ECHDC projects and was assured by the board that this was not a problem.  On the Aud site, minority workers made up 32 percent of the 27,000 logged man-hours.  They also pointed out that they meet and regularly exceed the minimum affirmative action requirements on projects.  Finally, despite the fact that there isn’t legislation dictating it, the ECHDC also tries to employ as many city residents as possible.

The board concluded with a discussion about the Commercial Slip multi-story, mixed use parking garage to be erected at the Marine Drive parking lot.  The elevated garage will include 1,200 parking spaces (two-thirds covered), with free spots for Marine Drive tenants and the mixed use exterior facing Canal Side and the harbor.  The $1 million project will be paid for with a mixture of 80 percent Federal funds, and 20 percent ECHDC monies.  A site has not yet been chosen for temporary parking for residents while the garage is built.

 

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