Canal Side Takes Shape with New Funding Agreement

July 13, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 6:42 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

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July 13, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 6:42 PM EDT

Buffalo's downtown Canal Side development got a financial shot in the arm on Tuesday from the New York Power Authority. A new agreement between the Power Authority and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation will lead to approximately $105 million in bonds to pay for the project's construction. The funding was initially secured a few years ago as part of the region's re-licensing agreement with NYPA, but the terms of the new agreement will get the money to the ECHDC more quickly. "We have the same amount of money but we're doing it over 20 years instead of 50 which will result in about $8.4 million a year," explains Jordan Levy, Chairman of the ECHDC.

"It's time that the Power Authority gives some pay back to Erie county and the city of Buffalo and this is a project that I believe in and that we believe in," says Richard M. Kessel, NYPA CEO.

Construction is already underway at Canal Side mostly on underground necessities such as utility lines. The ECHDC though is ready to start taking construction bids next month for the rest of Canal Side. "There will be a lot of restaurants, hospitality, entertainment, parks, public access canals with boating and skating in the winter," says Levy. Construction is expected to start on those projects in October, but the question remains -- will a Bass Pro store be a part of it?

"I believe that Bass Pro store will be built here," says Levy, "I believe we will start construction on that store in the fall. I do believe we will sign a lease in the next few months." Bass Pro has reportedly been interested for years in putting a store on the waterfront but the outdoor retailer has yet to sign a lease with the ECHDC.

Political leaders pointed out that Bass Pro comprises only 12 percent of the entire Canal Side development and the project will go forward with our without Bass Pro. "If Bass Pro wants to be part of this - fine, but the community will have input," says U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo), "This will be an organic waterfront, over 130 retail and restaurants have expressed an interest from Buffalo about being part of Canal Side." Project planners aren't ready to name the shops or restaurants that have shown interest, but sources tell Eyewitness News that some are successful restaurants in the suburbs of Buffalo.

For more information on the plan for Canal Side, visit the following link: http://www.eriecanalharbor.com/