Lt. Gov. Duffy tours key projects set to revitalize Buffalo's waterfrontby jmaloni
Critical projects on waterfront are creating more than 4,800 construction jobs and more than 1,000 permanent jobs; to date $160 million of private investment has been committed
Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy toured waterfront construction projects in Buffalo that are being driven by the state of New York and City of Buffalo. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation President Thomas Dee and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown led the Thursday tour and briefed Duffy on the development progress, which is creating more than 4,800 construction jobs and will create more than 1,000 permanent jobs. ECHDC currently has five active construction projects, five projects in the design phase and numerous projects in the conceptual planning stage and early development. To date, approximately $160 million of private investment has been committed to Buffalo's waterfront.
"Great strides are being made on Buffalo's waterfront with momentum building daily and the sites becoming a major catalyst for private development," Duffy said. "Through his leadership and commitment to the City of Buffalo, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated that he is steadfast in advancing Western New Yorkers' dreams of a revitalized and accessible waterfront. I applaud Congressman Higgins, Mayor Brown, as well as the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and its leadership, for their vision and progress."
Duffy toured Canalside; the construction on the former Donovan State Office Building and the former site of Memorial Auditorium; and the Webster Block.
"2012 was another breakthrough year for the Buffalo waterfront, with continued progress actively under way at the Webster Block and Erie Basin Marina," Brown said, noting the $123 million Webster Block plan to transform a city-owned lot into a first-of-its-kind hockey complex is projected to create 350 full-time jobs and generate $4.1 million in state and local taxes in the first full year of operations, $48 million over the next 10 years. "The continued development of Buffalo's waterfront will generate jobs, create more economic opportunity and draw even more city residents and visitors to downtown Buffalo. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Duffy for their commitment to Buffalo as champions of waterfront development."
"Through infrastructure investments we have laid the groundwork that is bringing people to the water's edge and, in turn, leading to tangible private sector investment that is creating jobs during construction and over the long-term," Higgins said. "This waterfront transformation is creating a dramatic shift in Buffalo's image from one that is old, industrial and declining to one that is new, vibrant and exciting."
The group first visited the Canalside project, which incorporates many historic elements of the original Erie Canal and celebrates Buffalo's role as the important western terminus of this modern engineering marvel. A burgeoning mixed-use development, Canalside has passed the tipping point with huge success. Summer 2012 offered more than 425 events and attracted more than 500,000 visitors with public access, improvements to the site and public infrastructure. The successful efforts of Canalside have spurred significant private investment and development along Buffalo's waterfront for the first time in 50 years.
Construction is ongoing on the canals, towpaths and bridges on the former Aud block and adjacent to Canalside. The historically aligned Canals, second on the group's tour, will interpret the alignment of the Erie Canal, which once crossed the site, and are designed to evoke the character and vibrancy of the historic Canal District.
In May, ground was broken on this $23 million project, which is meant to emphasize downtown Buffalo's connection to the waterfront. The canals are approximately 37,000 square feet and will include all the necessary equipment to maintain ice during the winter, which will facilitate outdoor recreation including ice skating. Three bridges and 22,000 square feet of towpaths lining the canals will reinforce the pedestrian experience and allow for future development as Canalside grows. DiPizio Construction Company Inc. of Cheektowaga is constructing the canals. Approximately 200 jobs will be generated by the construction of the canals, with permanent positions evolving once the work is completed in the summer of 2013.
The former Donovan State Office Building, a project to redevelop the vacant property is ongoing with the building "de-skinned," stripped down to its structural steel, and a new facade to be installed. Benderson Development purchased the building and land that the Donovan Office Building sits on from ECHDC and is investing $30 million to renovate the building. Phillips Lytle, Buffalo's largest law firm, and the Courtyard by Marriott have agreed to locate to the Donovan Building. The building is expected to open in January 2014.
The tour's final stop was at the 1.7-acre Webster Block, which is now a surface parking lot. As announced on Aug. 29, the City of Buffalo has selected HARBORcenter Development LLC (the development company affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres), as the preferred developer of the Webster Block. The $123 million project will create two new ice rinks, as well as a hotel, retail, a restaurant and new parking. It is expected to provide approximately 1,500 construction jobs and, once complete, create 350 new jobs.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "As not only Erie County executive, but also as a board member of ECHDC, I am very pleased to see the developments happening on Buffalo's waterfront. This is an investment in Erie County's future and will transform our waterfront into an attraction for generations to come."
State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Buffalo and Western New York are in the midst of an economic transformation, and there is no place where it's more visible than at our waterfront. Construction is ongoing, and the progress continues daily. It's putting Western New Yorkers to work and leading to further business expansion. I applaud Governor Cuomo, Congressman Higgins, Mayor Brown, ECHDC and all of our partners for their vision and focus. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure sustained economic progress and expanded public access."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Progress is happening along Buffalo's waterfront each and every day. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, our waterfront is seeing continuous investment and exciting new projects are taking shape. Western New Yorkers deserve a renewed waterfront where public access is the No. 1 priority, and I am going to continue to work with my colleagues in government to ensure that the great progress we have seen continues."
ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia said, "Buffalo's waterfront is one of the region's greatest assets and I am extremely pleased to see the action being taken, as well as the commitment, by the state and its partners to developing and continuing to invest in the waterfront. The groundwork has been laid and it's paying off with increased interest from both the public and business communities. As we continue moving forward on these and other projects, I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Duffy and the staff at ECHDC to build on the progress that has already been achieved."
Since taking office in January 2011, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has targeted the revitalization of the Buffalo and Western New York economy as a top priority that will contribute to the overall strength and vitality of New York. The governor's commitment to Buffalo and Western New York is evidenced in his $1 billion pledge to reinvigorate the city's and region's economy, leverage additional private sector investment and create a sustainable economy today and for generations to come. Additionally, the governor's creation of the statewide Regional Economic Development Council's resulted in the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council's successful 2011 submission that will bring $100.3 million in state funding to key development projects in eight industry sectors that are essential to Buffalo's future growth and development: health and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, energy, higher education, professional services, agriculture, bi-national logistics and tourism.
About Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is governed by a nine-member board consisting of seven voting directors and two non-voting, ex-officio directors. The seven voting directors are recommended by governor and are appointed by the New York State Urban Development Corp. (Empire State Development) as sole shareholder of ECHDC. The two non-voting, ex-officio director positions are held by the Erie County executive and the City of Buffalo mayor.
As a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state's chief economic development agency, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside, the Ohio Street corridor and the Outer Harbor, which is is attracting critical mass, private investment and enhance the enjoyment of the waterfront for residents and tourists in Western New York. Its vision is to revitalize Western New York's waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region's legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty. For more information on ECHDC, visit www.eriecanalharbor.com.