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PPG Pushes for a “Park-First” Approach to the Outer Harbor

Following is a letter from the Partnership for Pubic Good (PPG), addressed to Robert Gioia, Chair of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (via the 21st Century Park group). The letter implores the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) to take a “park-first” approach when formulating a plan for the Outer Harbor lands. The letter was not sent to local media, but is published here with permission of the PPG/Sam Magavern.

Dear Mr. Gioia:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the planning for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Partnership for the Public Good unites 162 community groups committed to Buffalo’s revitalization. We would like to urge the ECHDC to follow two related principles in its planning: (i) public investments should serve the public good; and (ii) a large, world-class park is the perfect public good around which to anchor the Outer Harbor revitalization.

The ECHDC’s Outer Harbor land is a classic public good. We hope that as it is redeveloped, all of the land remains in public hands. There are many private parcels of land on and near the waterfront available for commercial redevelopment and private investment. Rather than competing with the private owners of those parcels, the ECHDC should focus on creating great public amenities that benefit those owners along with the entire region. If we turn public land over to private uses, we may never get it back.

In redeveloping the land, we urge the ECHDC to take a “park-first” approach. A great, Olmsted-style park will make the perfect anchor for the waterfront. It can be designed with a wide range of uses to appeal to diverse cross-sections of the public. It can serve vital ecological functions in protecting our water, flora, and fauna. It can provide a valued amenity that draws residential and commercial development to nearby parcels. It can anchor the Niagara River Greenway.

The ECHDC should hew to the approach it has taken at Canalside by combining fast ways to draw people to the water with an organic, long-range approach to determining appropriate uses. In creating a world class park, there will be no substitute for experimentation and “crowd-sourcing.” Try many different activities and programs to get people to the water, and then begin designing a park that follows the people’s leads. Thank you for considering these remarks.


Sam Magavern
Co-Director, Partnership for the Public Good

The ECHDC has set up a web page specifically for the Outer Harbor (see here), which has been updated with information from the public planning sessions held earlier this month. Click here to see the initial conditions report prepared by the consultants, Perkins + Will, as well as the display boards used at the planning sessions last month. View complete document here.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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