After months of delays while the necessary paperwork was completed in Albany, crews have started building the first phase of a series of replica Erie Canal waterways that will serve as one of the central elements in the downtown Buffalo Canalside footprint.
Crews from Cheektowaga's DiPizio Construction Co. Inc., the low bidder on the project, began site and preliminary work this week. The $23.7 million project is expected to take 10 months to complete.
A formal ground breaking on the canal work is being planned.
"They are down there working," said Erich Weyant, spokesman for Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
In January, the ECHDC board of directors approved the pact with DiPizio to build a series of canals beginning at Marine Drive through a portion of the former Memorial Auditorium block to Main Street. DiPizio, whose main bid was for $19.78 million plus a standard 20 percent construction contingency, was the lowest of six bids submitted in December to ECHDC.
Even with the unexpected delay, officials hope the canals will be ready by next winter, in order to allow some ice skating and outdoor hockey games to take place.
The project includes 37,000-square-feet of waterways, three pedestrian bridges and 22,000-square-feet of towpaths.
A second phase that will bring the canals from Main Street east to Washington Street will be bid later this year.
Work on the canals was delayed as officials waited for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to sign off on documents approving the project. At issue was $21 million coming from a state pool of money that had originally been earmarked for the proposed, but never-built Bass Pro store inside the Canalside property. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos approved memorandum of understanding paperwork that allowed for the allocation, but Silver delayed the action as he wanted further information.
That information was finally delivered to Silver, who approved the deal in late March.
The canals are one of seven construction projects the agency has underway this year that collectively represent more than $75 million worth of work. One of those projects is the Liberty Hound restaurant in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Servicemen's Museum.
The Liberty Hound is expected to open by Memorial Day weekend, Weyant said.
Also, the Buffalo Planning Board, Tuesday morning, formally approved Benderson Development's One Canalside building - the former Gen. Donovan State Office Building. One Canalside will house a 96-room Courtyards by Marriott hotel and the offices for Phillips Lytle LLP.