OK, I know it’s officially “Buffalo River Fest Park”, but folks “in the know” (I’m looking at you, Buffalo Rising reader) have always called it “Peg’s Park” after the energetic head of the Valley Community Association, Margaret “Peg” Overdorf. Yesterday the long-discussed plans for the park took another step toward construction with a meeting onsite for prospective bidders. One of the firms will be selected next month, to begin construction this year.
Steven Denzler of DiDonato Associates, project manager for River Fest Park, told the prospective bidders that they will have an even 180 days from project commencement to finish. This is a “get it done” schedule, with all permitting issues having been handled in advance.
With the serendipitous appearance of a kayaker on the river, and the myriad sounds of a still-working waterfront echoing all around, everyone toured the site and heard more about the plans. For me, it was my first opportunity to be on the site, and see that stretch of the Buffalo River. The park will provide public access to a significant portion of the river, and in a great location–surrounded by grain elevators, and just around the corner from the Michigan Street lift bridge (and the Cotter), the Swannie House, and the Cooperage.
This project will join a number of other projects on or along the Buffalo River, underway or about to launch, including: construction phase of the Cooperage (just across the street), the Buffalo Scholastic Rowing Association, the Ice Boom site (with a new park at the foot of Hamburg Street), and preservation and restoration of the oxbow site in West Seneca.
And adjoining the park, the City will soon be constructing sidewalks on both sides of Ohio Street, and reconfiguring the street to accommodate streetside parking. The plans even call for bumpouts to create protected parking zones. (Are we nearing an end to the Buffalo Bumpout Ban? Stay tuned.) This will nearly eliminate the need to construct a surface parking lot for the park–how’s that for good planning? Any “Amens” from our commenters? Also, a section of the bike trail to the Outer Harbor will be built between the street and the park, further encouraging people to get to the park by any and all ways besides just driving and parking. Even the small amount of off-street parking in the plan will be “cool”: it will recreate Cincinnati Street, a historic “paper street” (that’s on the books but doesn’t currently exist) as an access to a small parking lot.
Astute readers of Buffalo Rising will notice some differences in the current plan, from renderings shown a couple of years ago. There have been some changes, due to site realities and funding, and some of the work will happen in future phases after the bulk of the construction this year. But the essentials remain. Peg told me this morning that one of her board members, Mark Smith, has been especially instrumental in the planning, drawing on years of contracting and construction experience. Also contributing to the final master plan for the park were Peter J. Smith & Company in Black Rock (with extensive experience in waterfront planning and landscape architecture) and consultant Kevin McCarthy.
Another major and historic step in the comeback of the Buffalo River will be discussed at a public meeting Thursday night (April 29) from 6 to 8PM: the Buffalo River Restoration Project, and the plan to begin removal of contaminated sediments–this year!
With all this overwhelmingly positive activity slated for the Buffalo River corridor, might it be time for developers to take another look at creative adaptive reuse of the abandoned grain elevators?
About DiDonato Associates, Steven told me they do a lot of “municipal work,” i.e. planning, design, and engineering work for local governments. I was interested–and impressed–to hear that they are based squarely downtown, in the 600 block of Main Street, rather than in a suburban office park somewhere like many other firms. It’s outstanding to have firms like DiDonato and Peter J. Smith located in Buffalo, committed to Buffalo, doing work in Buffalo. In recent years, Watts Engineering moved from the suburbs to the city, as did Savarino. Other firms, how about joining in?