"Summer Of Transformation" for Buffalo's Waterfront

April 12, 2011 Updated Apr 12, 2011 at 5:56 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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"Summer Of Transformation" for Buffalo's Waterfront

April 12, 2011 Updated Apr 12, 2011 at 5:56 PM EDT

( release) The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s (ECHDC) Board of Directors today approved a slate of items that will begin to change the way that Western New Yorkers connect and interact with their waterfront. The board awarded a contract for a temporary extension of the Central Wharf, renewed its contract with Buffalo Place to provide programming at Erie Canal Harbor, which will result in more than 300 events on the Inner Harbor, approved a grant for repairs and restoration to the historic Buffalo Lighthouse and announced that a water taxi service will provide access to various locations along the Buffalo River and Inner and Outer Harbors, a first for the region. Looking towards the future, the board named the contractor who will oversee the engineering and design of a series of historically aligned public canals, due to open during the summer/fall of 2012.

The board awarded a contract for $196,500 to the C. Destro Development Co. of Buffalo for construction of a temporary extension to the Central Wharf. The extension will provide an additional 400 feet of waterfront access for cyclists and pedestrians, resulting in a continuous linkage to the Outer Harbor via the Ohio Street Corridor. The contractor is required to achieve 20 percent Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and 5 percent Women Business Enterprise (WBE) participation and has indicated confidence in meeting that workforce utilization goal.

Buffalo Place will again provide operations, maintenance and special event services at the Central Wharf this summer. Building on the successful programming already in place, ECHDC has committed to tripling the number of events offered on the Inner Harbor this summer. The Cultural Steering Committee, which has been led by Maureen Hurley since 2007, endorsed a series of cultural offerings designed to tell “The Story of Buffalo” in the very place where Buffalo began. These events will complement the existing events offered during the past two summer seasons.

New events will include:

· The Buffalo Native Creek Festival
· The Fish and Wildlife Experience Festival
· Clinton’s Ditch (Historical drama detailing the building of the Erie Canal)
· The Masten District Jazz Festival
· Family programming from Explore & More Children’s Museum

“The people of Western New York have made it clear that what they want is connection to the water,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “Our goal is to create linkages along the waterfront so that people can enjoy what’s already available, and to get a sense of the opportunities that are there.”

The water taxi, operated by the Queen City Ferry Company, will link the three distinct areas of Buffalo’s waterfront: the Inner Harbor, the Buffalo River and the Outer Harbor. Queen City is a private venture with Buffalo Sailing Adventures, whose owners have over 30 years combined experience operating passenger and educational vessels on waterfronts nationwide, and have a proven record of success in providing engaging, authentic, and professional public access to Buffalo’s waterways on the Spirit of Buffalo. The $96,500 agreement ensures three years of regular water ferry services (pedestrian and bicycle) with standardized routes and schedules to four locations:

· The Commercial Slip (Inner Harbor)
· River Fest Park (Buffalo River)
· First Buffalo Marina (Inner Harbor)
· Small Boat Harbor (Outer Harbor)

“As progress moves forward, we are reminded that the water is the anchor that draws growing crowds. Public participation in this process and the actions of the board ensures that families and tourists will visit more often and stay longer as there will be more access and programming,” said Congressman Brian Higgins, who noted the projects approved today are supported by funding secured through the relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority. “Restaurants, restrooms, a ferry that connects an expanded commercial slip boardwalk to a series of pedestrian paths along the transformed Outer Harbor Parkway, and increased activities brought to us thanks to the experienced leadership of Buffalo Place are creating the destination that the people have demanded and certainly deserve.”

Demonstrating its commitment to preserving our waterfront’s heritage, ECHDC approved a grant of $170,700 for the repair and restoration of the Buffalo Lighthouse. Built in 1833, the lighthouse stands at the mouth of the Buffalo River and is so identified with Buffalo that it was incorporated into the City’s seal. The structure currently sits on federal land owned by the U.S. Coast Guard. Access to the site was restricted in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Congressman Brian Higgins secured over $6 million for reconfiguration of the Coast Guard facilities to allow public access to the area around the historic lighthouse. Construction is expected to begin soon on the grounds and the masonry repair and stonework is being completed in anticipation of the return of visitors to the site this fall.

C&S Companies of Buffalo will provide architectural and engineering design services for the historically aligned public canal system which will be constructed on the Aud Block, in accordance with the terms of a $1.7 million contract awarded today. Construction on the canals will begin later this year and will open during the summer/fall of 2012.

In other business, ECHDC approved its 2012 Operating Budget and named Empire State Development Counsel Leecia Eve as Corporation Counsel.

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is a subsidiary agency of Empire State Development Corporation whose vision is to revitalize Western New York’s waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region’s legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty.