Though work began on the first phase of a series of replica Erie Canal waterways inside the Canalside footprint began more than two weeks ago, public officials gathered at the construction Saturday afternoon to mark its ground breaking.
The first phase is completed this winter.
"The historically-aligned public canals will create year round excitement and a sense of place," said Sam Hoyt, the former state Assemblyman who is now regional president of the Empire State Development Corp. Hoyt is interim chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the state agency overseeing the development of Canalside.
The canals will begin at Marine Drive and cut through a portion of the former Memorial Auditorium site ending at Main Street. The second phase of the construction project will take the canals from Main Street east to Washington Street.
Cheektowaga's DiPizio Construction was the low bidder on the project at $23 million.
Bidding on the second phase is expected to take place later this year.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called the canal work "a significant moment" for downtown waterfront development.
It comes as more than $75 million worth of construction and development work is currently underway inside Canalside and organizers are hoping more than 500,000 come to the area - specifically the Central Wharf - this summer.