Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) has unveiled its “preferred vision“ for the Outer Harbor. A previous plan for the area was panned by seagull-lovers and others for having nodes dedicated for new residential and commercial construction.
The revised plan emphasizes passive recreation in three unique waterfront zones: First Buffalo River Marina; the 166 acres that include Wilkeson Pointe to Bell Slip; and Terminal B. The overall goals of the project include improving use and enjoyment of the Outer Harbor, enhancing bicycle and pedestrian access and minimizing adverse impacts on communities and the environment.
“Great efforts were made to ensure our vision for the Outer Harbor reflects the wants and needs of the public and I believe we were successful,” said ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia. “This vision, which is also complementary to Canalside and the plans to transform LaSalle Park into Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, continues the momentum on Buffalo’s waterfront.”
From earlier open houses and online surveys, ECHDC confirmed that the public wanted to empathize industrial heritage, ecology, access, recreation, amenities and access to the water’s edge. These attributes are reflected in the preferred vision for the Outer Harbor. For example, to optimize ecological diversity, the plan includes shoreline habitat enhancements at First Buffalo River Marina and aquatic habitat improvements, pollinator corridor plantings, pavement removal and native plantings throughout the 166 acres.
To maximize access to the water’s edge, the plan calls for: a pedestrian bridge over Slip 3; improved fishing access; a scenic overlook at the Bell Slip; Tall Ships mooring and transient boat docking at Slip 2; and a waterfront promenade and scenic overlook at Terminal B.
The plan also features: improved connections, including for walking and biking, throughout the Outer Harbor; a natural play area; skating/court sports at Terminal B; a high ropes course; and additional restrooms. The preferred vision also builds upon and complements recent State investments in Buffalo Harbor State Park and the Queen City Bike Ferry, as well as the cycling and pedestrian trails, overlooks and the events lawn now under construction on the Outer Harbor.
ECHDC will refine the preferred plan before recommending it to the ECHDC Board of Directors in the coming months. If it is approved, a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) will be conducted, followed by General Project Plan (GPP) with a groundbreaking expected in 2020. Buffalo Billion II has committed $15 million for this project.
In 2013, almost 400 acres of land on the Outer Harbor was transferred from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to ECHDC. As part of that transfer, Buffalo Harbor State Park was designated as the 180th state park in New York’s system and the first in the City of Buffalo. Buffalo Billion I committed $10 million for improvements to transform Buffalo Harbor State Park into a new visitor destination that continues the revitalization of the city’s waterfront. Buffalo Billion I also committed $5 million for a project, now under construction, that will enhance access and facilitate greater public use and enjoyment of 20 acres at the southern end of the Outer Harbor. The project includes: a completed multi-use greenway trail, including pedestrian and bicycle amenities; two overlook locations; an urban bike park with skills features and off-road trails; an events lawn for passive and active recreational purposes; and three habitat restoration areas. That project is slated to be completed later this month.