New York State’s largest Brownfield Opportunity Area is in its final step, and within sight of the finish line. Public input on Step 3, the implementation strategy, is underway, with an opportunity to weigh in this week. This week’s focus is on Hopkins Street, a critical-though-often-overlooked corridor along the western edge of South Buffalo’s neighborhoods.
According to consultant Architectural Resources,
Completion of the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area implementation strategy and final BOA plan marks a critical milestone in a process that began in the late 1990s. This plan establishes and overall vision for the area that includes economic and recreational development strategies for an area of the city that experienced industrial decline primarily due to the loss of steel-related industries. The implementation strategy sets the state for critical investment in the SBBOA by taking advantage of its numerous natural, cultural, and economic assets. The waterfront site is strategically located near the Canadian border and includes significant opportunities for global-trade-related industries. As the largest BOA in New York State, the plan is an integral component for the revitalization of this land in the City of Buffalo.
Buffalo Rising has been following the South Buffalo BOA planning process from the beginning, as it has advanced through the three steps of pre-nomination study, nomination, and implementation strategy. All of it has built on previous planning work done in the late 1990s. This image, for example, is from a concept plan prepared by DeLeuw Cather (now Parsons) back in 1997 or so. (It’s not the current plan, but is included as an illustration of the earlier work.)
From coverage of the winter 2008 kickoff of the pre-nomination study:
Under the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program, the State provides financial and technical assistance to municipalities to complete revitalization plans and implementation strategies for areas affected by the presence of brownfield sites. Brownfields are former commercial or industrial properties where real or perceived environmental contamination hinders reuse. Funding for environmental assessments and remediation for sites is also available through the State. The goal is to return dormant properties and areas back to productive use while restoring environmental quality.
With grant funding, the City will prepare an in-depth and thorough land use assessment, including an economic and market trends analysis of existing conditions, opportunities, and reuse potential for properties. An emphasis will be placed on the identification and reuse potential of strategic sites that are potential catalysts for revitalization. Based on the analysis and findings, recommendations for future uses and actions will be outlined.
Not only is this the largest BOA in New York State, it has received other critical notice of its importance:
The South Buffalo BOA was recently among one of three projects designated a Brownfields Smart Growth Spotlight Community by Governor David A. Paterson and Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. This important designation links the BOA to the Governor’s Smart Growth Cabinet, strengthening State support for future implementation efforts.
The pre-nomination study became a draft master plan for the BOA, and a nomination, which was approved by the State in 2010. And in 2011, Buffalo received funding to proceed to Step 3, development of the implementation strategy:
$1,458,000 in grant funding through the New York State Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Area (“BOA”) Program. The City of Buffalo in partnership with the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (“BUDC”) applied for and received the grant award through the BOA Program to prepare a Step 3 Implementation Strategy for the South Buffalo BOA. BUDC is providing a 10 percent match for the grant and will also be managing most of the major tasks involved in the Step 3 BOA Project.
This may seem like a long process, with a lot of steps, and requiring a lot of resources. And all that is true of BOAs in general — I’m still part of a BOA steering committee in Rochester that began work before I moved to Buffalo, over four years ago. But brownfield redevelopment is heavy lift. Significant resources need to be brought to bear to remediate the effects of decades of industrial land use. It is critical to fully grasp the true extent of contamination, the potential, and community vision for hundreds or even thousands of acres of property under varied — and sometimes disputed — ownership. Adequate time, resources, and process are crucial in getting things on the right path.
And you can help, by shaping the implementation strategy and more detailed planning for key strategic properties and subareas. And one of the most important of those areas is Hopkins Street — so much so that the City and consultants want to develop a plan for the neighborhood as part of the larger BOA implementation plan.
As you can see from the map, Hopkins Street is the border but we intend on reaching out to community members to the east — we don’t want to see Hopkins Street as a divider, but instead an important center to the growth of this area. We have also started a social media campaign and would welcome more people to be engaged in this discussion. We have set up a Facebook account and Twitter account to support the BUDC website which has current information about the project.
The Hopkins Street
Neighborhood Plan will be designed to foster community revitalization and a sensible transition between adjacent proposed green spaces and employment centers, such as the Riverbend Commerce Park. Initiatives include: improving existing housing stock, exploring uses for vacant and underutilized space, recommending zoning that removes land use conflicts, and developing design standards for buildings and streetscapes that are compatible with the community’s character.
Also, in April, there was a South Buffalo BOA public meeting to present the golf course study. I wasn’t able to make it, but according to reports it was an excellent discussion of the potential to establish a major golf course on acres of now-vacant land north of South Park. A slideshow from that presentation is available here (Flash required), and an audio link is available on the South Buffalo BOA Facebook page.