Over the years, I have struggled with the idea that the DL&W Terminal sits right under our nose, yet remains completely underutilized other than for NFTA Metro Rail purposes. I have walked the upper concourse of the terminal, and have seen firsthand the opportunity that has yet to be realized. The terminal has many of the same inherent qualities and features as the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Watching the opportunities squandered, year after year, is heartbreaking.
Enter Congressman Brian Higgins. Higgins gets it. He understands what this terminal could do for the waterfront and for the region. He is fighting to transition the DL&W into a place that would be frequented by the entire region. Seeing an alternative use for the DL&W would send yet another signal that we are no longer going to sit back and watch key opportunities pass us by. Instead, we are going to act upon our visionary impulses, by being proactive instead of sitting idly by. If we are to be a truly progressive city, then we must look at these sorts of opportunities in earnest, and with decisive conviction.
Higgins is pushing for the NFTA to move forward with “Alternative B” (the Buffalo River plan – see study). He is opting to bring life and vitality to the DL&W, which would forever alter the course of the waterfront, the Metro Rail, Main Street, Canalside, etc. Alternative B would drop Metro Rail passengers inside the terminal, where they would have immediate access to further amenities inside the building. The plan would also feature stairs and an elevator to the massive (and currently empty) second floor of the building. Furthermore, a pedestrian bridge would span South Park Avenue, with public access to the Riverwalk. The plan would also allow for the possibility of future extensions.
Conversely, “Alternative A” (the South Park option), would see a new station platform along South Park Avenue on the north side of the DL&W. That’s it.
“Today’s decisions will determine tomorrow’s opportunities and the Buffalo River option that fully integrates the DL&W Terminal into the future of Metro Rail gives this community the best opportunities moving forward,” said Higgins.
Higgins stated that the Alternative B plan would also be conducive to multi-modal transportation opportunities with bus and automobile traffic at the terminal. These types of multi-modal projects tend to get the attention of federal and state transportation departments that source needed funds. Commuter rail projects are hot right now, and the feds want to see the types of plans that incorporate the ideas that Higgins is gunning for.
“Transit –Oriented Development capitalizes on public infrastructure investments to leverage private sector economic development,” said Higgins. “Through this approach we create jobs and a greater sense of place and connectivity within the City.”
The time is right for this sort of all-inclusive project. It would help to tie in the rest of the growth downtown Buffalo (see report that details nearby federal investments tallying $169 million), from the Medical Campus to Canalside. Imagine taking a Metro Rail from South Campus, and winding up inside the DL&W Terminal with stores to browse and restaurants to frequent.
“Buffalo’s renaissance is underway because we have learned to embrace the characteristics that are uniquely ours and remake them to meet the demands of today and tomorrow,” added Higgins. “The historic DL&W Terminal, built nearly 100 years ago, has a grand presence as a former center for rail passengers and great lakes shipments. The prospect of reawakening this site with new activity holds incredible potential.”
This is one of those crucial moments that will forever alter the course of Buffalo. It’s a no brainer. If the NFTA opts for Alternative A, this city should be up in arms over the decision. Let’s hope that this decision doesn’t go wide right.
“We applaud the NFTA’s foresight and community involvement,” said Higgins. “Now, the decision is ours. Do we want to create a rail stop or a destination?”