Canalside questions answered: an in-depth look at the waterfront development

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Posted at 4:02 PM, Oct 04, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It’s the largest outdoor roller-skating rink in the state.

“We have plenty of skateable surface. We run free lessons and we’re announcing free programming all the time,” explained Buffalo Waterfront General Manager Lauren Moloney Ford.

The rink is the latest attraction to open at Buffalo’s Canalside. Moloney Ford said it has been a popular addition to the area.

“People are looking for outdoor things with their family and we have plenty of those at Canalside,” she said.

Nearby, Explore and More-The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children’s Museum isn’t one of them.

It’s one of the few indoor attractions at Canalside, and representatives said it has been a challenging time as COVID-19 concerns continue to be top of mind both for museum staff and its visitors. Museum CEO, Michelle Urbanczyk said it continues to operate at 60% reduced capacity due to COVID-19. It is also reporting a decrease in yearly membership, sales, and attendance.

According to Urbanczyk, in 2020—the museum was expecting to reach over 225,000+ children/caregivers until the pandemic hit. In 2021—it hopes to see 100,000 visitors.

Membership sales are also down from 2,000 prior to COVID-19 to 1,154. Urbanczyk said it saw a trend similar to children's museums across the country: members not renewing in fear that the museum would be shutdown again due to the pandemic. However, she said they are now seeing memberships increasing.

Next door to the museum— Sinatra and Company was expected to break ground on the $40 million Heritage Point project in 2019. But, two years later, the land remains largely untouched.

Anthony Nanula is the Chief Investment Officer for Sinatra and Company. He said parking availability caused initial delays that have since been resolved. COVID-19 hasn’t help matters, either.

“We had an over 20% increase in cost and, in particular, lumber was our biggest cost increase as may projects have been impacted by that. We’re moving forward and we’re going to be breaking ground soon without having to change the scope,” he said.

Once complete, Heritage Point will be a mix of retail, office space, and dozens of market rate apartments.

“We’re likely going to have restaurants on the first floor. We’re very excited about that given the area and the traffic here. It’s going to set a standard here for what we all hope Canalside will become, which is really a regional and beyond destination,” Nanula said.

Nanula said Sinatra isn’t accepting applications for the rental units until next spring. The new targeted groundbreaking is November with the hope of opening in the spring of 2023.

The plot of land between the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and the Lecom Harborcenter – has become a storage site for building materials. A state representative said development is still in the planning stages.

Southern Tier Brewing CO., formerly 716, opened just last week.