Stand at the corner of Main and Scott streets and construction can be seen and heard from three different directions. Construction crews are busy as cranes dot three different blocks. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) President Thomas Dee and Mayor Byron Brown gave Lieutenant Governor Duffy and other officials a tour of Canalside, the former Donovan State Office Building construction site, and the Webster Block yesterday.
“2012 was another breakthrough year for the Buffalo waterfront, with continued progress actively underway at the Webster Block and Erie Basin Marina,” said Mayor Byron Brown, noting that the $123 million Webster Block plan to transform a city owned lot into a first-of-its-kind hockey complex is projected to create 350 full-time jobs and generate $4.1 million in state and local taxes in the first full year of operations, $48 million over the next ten years. “The continued development of Buffalo’s waterfront will generate jobs, create more economic opportunity and draw even more city residents and visitors to downtown Buffalo. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Duffy for their commitment to Buffalo as champions of waterfront development.”
The group first visited the Canalside project, which incorporates many historic elements of the original Erie Canal and celebrates Buffalo’s role as the important western terminus of this modern engineering marvel. A burgeoning mixed use development, Canalside has passed the tipping point with huge success. Summer 2012 offered over 425 events and attracted more than 500,000 visitors with public access, improvements to the site and public infrastructure. The successful efforts of Canalside have spurred significant private investment and development along Buffalo’s waterfront for the first time in 50 years.
Construction is ongoing on the canals, towpaths and bridges on the former Aud Block and adjacent to Canalside. The historically aligned Canals, second on the group’s tour, will interpret the alignment of the Erie Canal, which once crossed the site, and are designed to evoke the character and vibrancy of the historic Canal District. Earlier this year in May, ground was broken on this $23 million project, which is meant to emphasize downtown Buffalo’s connection to the waterfront.
The canals are approximately 37,000 square feet and will include all the necessary equipment to maintain ice during the winter, which will facilitate outdoor recreation including ice skating. Three bridges and 22,000 square feet of towpaths lining the canals will reinforce the pedestrian experience and allow for future development as Canalside grows. DiPizio Construction Company, Inc. of Cheektowaga is constructing the canals. Approximately 200 jobs will be generated by the construction of the canals, with permanent positions evolving once the work is completed, which will be in the summer of 2013.
The former Donovan State Office Building, a project to redevelop the vacant property is ongoing with the building “de-skinned,” stripped down to its structural steel, and a new facade to be installed. Benderson Development purchased the building and land that the Donovan Office Building sits on from ECHDC and is investing $30 million to renovate the building. Phillips Lytle, Buffalo’s largest law firm, and the Courtyard by Marriott have agreed to locate to the Donovan Building. The building is expected to open in January 2014.
The tour’s final stop was at the 1.7 acre Webster Block, which is now a surface parking lot. As announced on August 29, the City of Buffalo has selected HARBORcenter Development LLC (the development company affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres), as the preferred developer of the Webster Block. The $123 million project will create two new ice rinks, as well as a hotel, retail, a restaurant and new parking. It is expected to provide approximately 1,500 construction jobs and, once complete, create 350 new jobs.
Photos by Nate Mroz