Buffalo Waterfront Development

June 21, 2012 Updated Jun 21, 2012 at 7:48 AM EDT

By WKBW News

June 21, 2012 Updated Jun 21, 2012 at 7:48 AM EDT

Mayor Brown encourages citizens to help shape the future of Buffalo's waterfront

Public is invited to take part in the latest round of waterfront planning meetings

City of Buffalo Press Release:

Buffalo - Mayor Byron W. Brown today urged citizens who care about the future of Buffalo's waterfronts to participate in planning meetings scheduled for June 25th, 26th, and 27th. That's when alternative concepts for development for the outer harbor, inner harbor, Buffalo River, and Scajaquada Creek waterfronts will be presented for public comment.

"This is a crucial moment in the life of our city," Mayor Brown declared, "We would like as much citizen involvement as possible as we make decisions that will shape the development of Buffalo for half a century to come. Those decisions ought to be made by members of our community."

The meetings mark the third phase in planning for the City of Buffalo's three Brownfield Opportunity Areas - a reference to the New York State program that provides incentives and regulatory relief for development that conforms to plans for the redevelopment of old industrial lands, sometimes known as "brownfields."

One of the proposed Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) encompasses the "inner harbor" and "outer harbor," including property along Fuhrmann Boulevard, now owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).

Representatives of the NFTA, which has owned the land since the 1950s, recently opened talks with the City of Buffalo and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, both of which have expressed an interest in acquiring the land. Whatever the disposition of the land, Mayor Brown said, the City of Buffalo is the body with constitutional authority to regulate how that land may be developed and used.

"Under New York State's home rule system, the City of Buffalo is the legitimate governing body over land use on the outer harbor, and everywhere else in the city, for that matter," Brown said. "Our planning meetings through the BOA program, therefore, are the appropriate place for the public to express its vision for the future of this precious land."

Brown explained that the BOA process is an important element in the emerging planning framework for the long-term redevelopment of the entire city. Plans for brownfield areas are being developed in concert with the new Buffalo Green Code, a city-wide land use plan and all-new form-based zoning code, dues for completion later this year.

Those projects will implement Buffalo's recent comprehensive plan, The Queen City in the 21st Century, and companion plans for Buffalo's waterfront, downtown, and Olmsted parks and parkways system. This ensemble of plans, to which the city intends to add a plan for historic preservation, was recognized by the influential Congress for the New Urbanism with its 2009 Charter Award.

"We know where we are going," Brown said. "And we have a plan to get there."

While the outer harbor area is the most prominent site addressed by the BOA process, the work under way addresses many other sites crucial to the economic redevelopment and environmental repair of the city. In addition to the Buffalo Harbor BOA, which takes in the outer harbor, inner harbor and Waterfront Village areas, brownfield areas have also been designated for the Buffalo River and the Tonawanda Street Corridor, which includes major rail facilities and Scajaquada Creek.

"In general, these are areas identified in our city-wide comprehensive plan as holding promise for long-term redevelopment - the places where we will grow the jobs of the 21st Century, " said Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning. "The incentives provided under the BOA law will help us turn these liabilities into assets."

The BOA project began in 2011 with preliminary survey work of potential brownfield areas and the designation of specific boundaries for areas to be nominated for approval by the state as official Brownfield Opportunity Areas.

That work continued with a careful inventory of land ownership, building fabric, parks and green space, transportation systems, utility infrastructure, historic resources, major industrial facilities, natural resources, environmental features, and an evaluation of potential future demand for remediated brownfield sites.

"Everyone wants to see something happen in these areas, especially the outer harbor," Mehaffy said. "But it's important that we understand what the market potential is for these sites within the context of the city and regional real estate markets."

"The last thing we want to do," Mehaffy added, "is promote development in one place that robs market demand from other places where we'd also like to see development - like Downtown and our close-in neighborhoods."

The Buffalo Harbor, Buffalo River, and Tonawanda Street Corridor BOAs would actually be the second, third, and fourth such areas designated in Buffalo. A similar planning process was conducted several years ago for the South Buffalo BOA, an effort which produced the South Buffalo Redevelopment Plan.

The work so far has been driven by a robust process of citizen engagement with grassroots steering committees for each nominated area, informational public meetings to kick off the process last year, and public sessions devoted to "directions" held in February.

The next round of public meetings will invite public comment on an array of three conceptual alternatives for each of the three BOAs. Citizens will hear a presentation on each, and then have an opportunity to record detailed comments in a workbook, which will be analyzed and used to inform further work on development of the area plans.

- Buffalo Harbor BOA public workshop, Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m., Buffalo Waterfront School.

- Buffalo River BOA public workshop, Wednesday, June 27, 6 p.m. Old First Ward Community Center.

- Tonawanda Street Corridor BOA public workshop, Thursday, June 28, 6 p.m. Riverside High School.

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