It’s been a long wait to see new street and sidewalk infrastructure improvements underway for Allentown. For years we’ve been hearing about various street improvements that were being implemented, but then talks would die down, and we were left waiting again. Allen Street is prime for a makeover, just about everyone can agree on that. At this point, design work has been completed, and funding is in place for work to begin, except for Phase II, which extends from Delaware to Wadsworth – the City is still looking for federal funds to complete the project, which costs approximately $2 million per block. The second phase could start a few years from now, unfortunately.
The good news is, work on the initial phase of the project is scheduled to begin this summer – starting at Main Street and ending up at Delaware. The timeline has not been set, because typically in historic neighborhoods such as Allentown, there are some surprises once the digging begins. Allentown is notorious as a neighborhood that was built on top of historic burial grounds, and sometimes the human bones were not sufficiently moved to other cemeteries, as they were intended.
The names of side streets will be imprinted on the sidewalk at each intersection. There will be bumpouts. And certain intersections will have turning lanes.
Once complete, the street and the sidewalk will virtually mesh as one (mountable curbs), with a slight elevated gradient leading from the street to the buildings. While the passersby will not recognize that there is a slight pitch, the rainwater will make its way to the middle of the middle of the street, where it will be drained into the sewer system. The street and the sidewalks will be delineated by color schemes.
New fiber, electric, gas, etc., will be laid down during the construction process. Development will take place on one side of the street at a time, to make the process business friendly. In the end, Allen Street will function much like Main Street does down on the 500 Block, with removable parking bollards. During street festivals, the bollards can be taken out, which will make the street and the sidewalk become one big bike-ped area.
Vehicle traffic lanes will be 11 feet wide, up from 9 or 10 feet currently.
In the end, every design option was considered, says Andrew Eisenhardt, who has been Executive Director of The Allentown Association for twelve years. A dedicated cycle track was considered, but gave way to 125 parking spots that the businesses depend on. The #7 bus (both lines) has been relocated to North Street (that happened six months ago), which will alleviate some of the congestion.
Eisenhardt also points out that there will be raised crosswalks at Main Street, which is a totally different plan (part of the Medical Campus).
At one point, Allen Street was going to be extended for a couple of blocks, through the Medical Campus (a different phase), but now that plan is being solely dedicated to bike-ped (to Ellicott Street).
Here’s an example of what the ped-bike extension to Ellicott, through the Medical Campus, will look like:
Eisenhardt believes that the new plan for Allen Street will be well received once it is in place. According to a recent Allentown Association news letter, final Allen Street design elements have been chosen:
Allen Street redesign elements Clockwise from top left: Street signs will incorporate Allentown’s “A” symbol. Light poles along the street will be single-headed Florentine style topped with a single Tudor-style LED head. Light poles at intersections will extend out into the street. Benches will have center armrests to discourage people from sleeping on them, and also will incorporate the “A” symbol, as will bicycle racks. Finally, above, “wayfinding” signs like the one at Fountain Plaza will have customized panels for Allentown. There will be two of them: One on the southwest corner of Allen and Delaware, and one on the extension in the Medical Campus.
During the initial two project phases, all of the existing trees will be removed, unfortunately. But the good news is that the new 2½- to 3-inch caliper trunks will have larger tree wells to grow. As for the existing patios, they will all be removed, and will have to be rebuilt according to code, which means that any illegal patios (currently) will have to be rebuilt/modified. The historic street light standards will be removed. Hopefully the City can repurpose those in another historic neighborhood. It’s a real bummer to lose these beauties – it’s too bad that they will be lost.
As for cyclists looking to get around Allentown, Allen Street will be demarcated with sharrows (share the road markers). Bikes will not be allowed on sidewalks, which is a City ordinance. There will be a dedicated, protected, two (2/2) way cycle track on Virginia Street (one block away).
- Bid Ready Plan Set (PS&E): Anticipated Mid-March 2018
- Bid Opening: Anticipated May 2018
- Construction Begins: Anticipated July 2018
The City of Buffalo has retained Bergmann Associates, in conjunction with their partners Halvorson Design Partnership, Ravi Engineering, RK Hite & Co., and Highland Planning, to design the Allen Street Extension Project. The project is being overseen by a Technical Advisory Committee with representatives from the City, Department of Public Works, Parks and Streets, the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning, New York State Department of Transportation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the Allentown Association.
It’s a sad day for the neighborhood because Hyatt’s All Things Creative will be moving from Main Street to North Buffalo, where they have started to build a 40,000 square foot “dream home”. This business will be missed in Allentown.
In the “good news” corner, J. Licata Heating & Plumbing (249 Allen Street) has finally been sold, although we’re not sure exactly what will pan out there. But it would be great to see something nice happen with that location, which could use an injection of life.
Work is underway at 185 Allen Street – a building that has been boarded up for 20 years (learn more). Apparently there is going to be a sandwich shop on the first floor, and two apartments on the second floor. At this point, there is a moratorium on beer & wine, and liquor licenses in Allentown, so it will be interesting to see how new lunch and dinner operations will deal with the statute. This building has access to the amazing courtyard (shared by Cantina Loco), although once again, the SLA does have an issue with interconnected patios when there are alcohol licenses attached to any of the properties. As an aside, this courtyard (originally Solomon Court) was once part of Solomon Alley – it was home to a super bohemian sculpture court.
15 Allen Street (development) is going to look incredible when it is complete (see here). Huamei Wang is developing the building and Adam Sokol of ASAP is architect.
Apartments are planned for 45 Allen Street (see here). Clover Management is converting the second floor of 45 Allen Street into apartments. The iconic two-story building is located at the northeast corner of Allen and Franklin streets. The space to be converted was previously occupied by the Buffalo Philharmonic’s offices.
The Red Jacket building, at the corner of Main and Allen, applied for a $300K Main Street Grant, and got it. Hopefully we see some action on that corner in coming months. These are super high profile commercial spaces that are just screaming for tenants.
There are two vacant parcels on Allen Street, which are owned by the family that owns Towne Restaurant. One is at the corner of Main and Allen, and the other is at the corner of Allen and Park Street. It would be great to see some action on these corners – either sell them or do something with them.
Finally, Allen West is 20 years old this year, incredibly. Allen West is the counterpart to the Allen Street Art Festival – the smaller festival, comprised of local artists, is found on Allen Street, between Elmwood and Wadsworth (during the Allen Street Art Festival). The bohemian festival started with 50 vendors, and has now maxed out at 125 vendors.