Waterfront Development

January 17, 2013 Updated Jan 17, 2013 at 8:36 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

...
January 17, 2013 Updated Jan 17, 2013 at 8:36 AM EDT

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. directors Wednesday morning approved a slightly revamped "modified general project plan" for the 20-acre Canalside district in downtown Buffalo.

The plan is now being forwarded to the Empire State Development Corp. board of directors, which is expected to approve the document when they meet Thursday morning.

The dual approvals are necessary to the overall blueprint for various developments within the Canalside footprint.

The plan was last modified in late 2010 after Bass Pro withdrew its plans to build a 130,000-square-foot store when Memorial Auditorium once stood. The revised plan was needed to acknowledge the proposed HarborCenter project on the Webster Block and making a mini-urban people's park along Scott Street - between Main and Washington streets - where a portion of the replica Erie Canal waterway was originally designed.

"The big change was really HarborCenter," said Steve Gawlik, Empire State Development Corp. deputy associate counsel. "And, all of the comments were glowing."

Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula has proposed to build the $123 million HarborCenter on the Webster Block, a nearly two-acre surface parking lot that sits just in front of First Niagara Center. HarborCenter will be anchored by a pair of hockey rinks and a 200-room hotel. The rinks are designed to host amateur hockey teams, leagues and tournaments.

Construction on HarborCenter is expected to start this year. The project will open in phases, beginning with the rinks in the fall of 2014.

Gawlik said during a Dec. 5 public hearing that focused on the tweaked plan only five people attended and only one of those people had concerns. All of the speaker's issues were addressed.

"In hearings like this, people usually come to complain," Gawlik said. "They don't come to say 'what a good job you are doing'."

If other major changes are ultimately made to Canalside, the modified general project plan may have to be re-approved again by the ECHDC board as well as Empire State Development's board, Gawlik said. But, that would only govern major changes, not minor tweaks.

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