The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) and the City of Buffalo have come up with an updated blueprint for the Outer Harbor, which partially pushes forward the continued successful of the Inner Harbor – that is where short term development progress will be concentrated (it is likely that the City will choose a developer for the entire four acres, according to the ECHDC).
As for the Outer Harbor, a longer range plan looks to be in effect, with short term goals that will lend themselves toward achieving the long term vision. The Outer Harbor will roll out according to the Land Use Plan, the Unified Development Ordinance (Green Code), the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, and according to the Buffalo Harbor Brownfield Opportunity Area.
As the long term plan is formulated, the ECHDC will dedicate $5 million to what is being considered first phase short term improvements, which will mesh with the long term vision. As the additional short term investments take hold, a natural course will play out, which will help to determine long term strategies. Even more will depend on A) future financial sources, B) developer interest C) public input (and environmental impacts).
The goal is to get more people utilizing the Outer Harbor in ways that include public art installations, bicycle rentals, outdoor film screenings, and pop-up events and activities.
“The Blueprint planning process originated in September 2013, after Governor Cuomo announced that the NFTA would transfer a then-estimated 400 acres to ECHDC,” said Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Chairman Robert Gioia. “As a result of that process, we have heard from the community during several public sessions and agree that the City of Buffalo’s Green Code planning process is the best format for ensuring an open and transparent consideration of all long-term development planning on the Outer Harbor. Of the approximately 421 acres of land controlled by the state (including the 231 acres included in the public planning process and the 190 acres that now comprise the Buffalo Harbor State Park), the Green Code envisions approximately 80% of it to be zoned as open greenspace, which we believe is consistent with public sentiment. I thank the members of our Buffalo Waterfront Development Advisory Committee, the planning team led by Perkins+Will, and our ESD/ECHDC staff who have all worked so diligently on this vitally important process. But mostly, I thank the public who engaged so enthusiastically in an open dialogue for a wonderful section of our city that holds so much promise and potential.”
Three key factors moving forward:
- Focus redevelopment on the Terminal property at the foot of Ohio Street and the NYPA parcel
- Maintain the balance of the Outer Harbor as open space in the interim, with specific uses to be determined in the future based on the Green Code
- Preserve public access at all points along the lakefront and the City Ship Canal
“We’re pleased with the partnership we have with ECHDC on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor Development,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “ECHDC’s planning process for the future of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor included a number of well-attended large public meetings, as well as smaller meetings comprised of constituents and other stakeholders, in which the public expressed diverse opinions about the development of the Outer Harbor. As we go forward with ECHDC’s Blueprint for our city’s Outer Harbor, there will continue to be numerous opportunities for public input through the City of Buffalo Green Code process.”
Five goals of the blueprint are as follows
- Creating a Bell Slip Visitor Center with pedestrian and bicycle amenities, to take advantage of the existing views and availability of parking. A pair of overlooks would be developed nearby to encourage birding, painting, photography, and astronomy.
- Studying the potential for a wildlife corridor between Times Beach and Tifft Nature Preserves; and installing an Osprey-nesting platform at Times Beach. Transforming the Seaway Pier into a multi-use flex space, building on the success of Wilkeson Pointe. The 8-acre site will be cleared, capped and re-graded to accommodate an adult workout area, ropes course, foot/bicycle paths (doubling as crosscountry ski trails), cantilevered trail section (doubling as a fishing pier), deck, beach, beer garden, and games zone (horseshoes, bocce courts, petanq, shuffleboard, volleyball). The site may also include recreational fields or pollinator fields and seasonal floating docks, safety ladders and life rings.
- Extending a Southern Bike Trail around Terminals A & B to complete the Greenbelt loop, with benches, trash cans, bike racks, and other features. New mountain bike facilities will provide additional, off-road trails.
- Operating a seasonal Trolley System along Fuhrmann Boulevard between Gallagher Beach and the Lighthouse.
- Installing signage from Gallagher Beach to the Lighthouse to highlight key public locations and distances. Consider the potential for additional interpretive signs and physical fitness signs such as 10,000 Steps.
As we can see, the community has spoken loud and clear about its want to have an accessible and open Outer Harbor, filled with plenty of things to see and do. Short term development will be focused on the Inner Harbor, in order to achieve density of buildings and commercial amenities. The Outer Harbor will be a lively, healthy, beautiful place to fish, listen to live music, play games, bike, nature watch, boat, and play on the beach. Two very different harbors are taking shape, both of which are intended to accommodate the needs and wishes of the community.