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The Buffalo waterfront. (Photos courtesy of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation)
The Buffalo waterfront. (Photos courtesy of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation)

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. celebrates Canalside's 10th anniversary


Tue, Jul 3rd 2018 05:40 pm
Successful redevelopment of Buffalo's waterfront celebrated with 'Wedding of the Waters' ceremony
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. announced the 10th anniversary of Canalside, which historically, was the western terminus of the Erie Canal and today has become a rich site of development, revival and activity in Buffalo.
A symbolic "Wedding of the Waters" ceremony was held Monday in recognition of the great success of Canalside and the spin-off success of the Outer Harbor and Buffalo River. Attendees poured lake and river water into the commercial slip to symbolize the "marriage" of the water bodies and the success of the entire waterfront. The original Canalside ceremony held 10 years ago yesterday was to commemorate completion of the nine-year, $53 million Erie Canal Harbor redevelopment project.
Canalside has transformed Buffalo's Inner Harbor into a year-round attraction and a mixed-use urban entertainment destination that features Erie Canal Harbor.
"I vividly remember that sunny day 10 years ago when we celebrated the history of the Erie Canal and embarked on a new era for the City of Buffalo,"‎ said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who led the 10th anniversary celebration.‎ "Canalside has allowed us to embrace our historic legacy and transform our waterfront in ways once thought impossible. Canalside is now the epicenter of activity in the 'New' Buffalo, attracting both tourists and local residents with fun family activities. New York state's commitment and investment will continue as we move forward into the next decade along Buffalo's magnificent waterfront."
The first "Wedding of the Waters" ceremony was held in 1825 and featured Gov. DeWitt Clinton ushering in the original "canal era" by pouring lake water taken from Erie Canal Harbor's commercial slip into the Hudson River, thereby "marrying" the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Ten years ago, dignitaries paid tribute to the famous "water wedding" and ushered in Western New York's own "waterfront development era" by pouring canal water into the refurbished commercial slip to celebrate the official completion of the inner harbor project on 12.5 acres of prime waterfront property. Features that were officially revealed that day included:
•Wooden-plank "Central Wharf," which stretches out along the Buffalo River;
•Award-winning "Whipple Truss" footbridge, which accurately resembles other traditional canal spans and connects the "Central Wharf" to cobblestone "Commercial Street;"
•Excavated foundations of the original "Steamship Hotel," which are presented alongside several interpretive exhibits showcasing the historical significance of the Erie Canal; and
•Man-made waterfall, which flows from the Scott Street railroad girder passage to help circulate water within the commercial slip and make the re-watered canal area more visually appealing.
This project was spearheaded by Empire State Development and its subsidiary, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC), which has received more than $70 million in funding from the New York Power Authority since 2007. NYPA will provide an additional $80 million to support ECHDC waterfront and Canalside projects over the next decade.
As part of the ceremony, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown proclaimed the Spirit of Buffalo the flagship of the City of Buffalo. This is a term used by cities to identify a signature sailing vessel that is an icon on their waterfront. The 73-foot topsail schooner has provided thousands of visitors an opportunity to enjoy being on the water in the Queen City. To celebrate its 10th birthday, the Hilliman family, owner of the Spirit of Buffalo, is offering $10 rides at 10 a.m. on July 4, 5 and 6. Children 10 and under will be able to ride for free. A picture of the ship and more information can be found at www.spiritofbuffalo.com.
Brown said, "I'm thrilled to be back at Canalside to celebrate 10 years of investment and success. I thank Gov. Cuomo for partnering with our community and for his commitment to making Canalside a world-class destination. Canalside employs and entertains our residents, while also attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to come to Buffalo. My administration remains committed to working with Gov. Cuomo and other partners to continue growing Canalside as an international destination to create a brighter future for our city."
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "This community fought for and won a $279 million federal relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority, which has funded the majority of the public investments in our waterfront over the last decade and will continue to do so for the next 10 years. Prior to 2008, people couldn't find and had no reason to visit the water's edge. A great deal has changed; by embracing our position on Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, we've become the waterfront city we were destined to be. Today we celebrate the waterfront transformation, but this is no time to rest on our achievements. Work still remains to continue the great momentum on our waterfront."
NYPA Chairman and Buffalo resident John Koelmel said, "This 10th anniversary adds yet another milestone to the long and vibrant history of the Erie Canal, which transformed Buffalo into a major transit hub and the second-largest city in New York. Canalside represents Buffalo reclaiming its history and, almost 200 years later, reimagining the way in which its waterways are woven into the economic and cultural fabric of not only this city, but all of New York."
The mission of ECHDC is to connect the public with one of Buffalo's greatest assets, its waterfront. The past 10 years have seen the addition of many other projects on the site, all to encourage residents and visitors to enjoy recreation, relaxation, food and entertainment at the water's edge.
Completed Improvements at Canalside since 2008:
Historically Aligned Canals/Ice at Canalside/Canals at Canalside
The historically aligned, man-made canals opened in 2014, representing where the Erie Canal once existed. Modern day, it is New York state's largest outdoor ice-skating rink in the winter and in the summer there are pedal and paddleboats for adults and children. The $20 million project included a comprehensive renovation of the canals, construction of three bridges and 22,000 square feet of towpaths surrounding the canals to reinforce the pedestrian experience and allow for future development as Canalside grows.
East Canal
$5.8 million state investment created an outdoor public space that features a granite plaza, a shallow pool of water, fountains, seating, lighting and a shaded tree grove. It is located just south of One Canalside the former Donovan State Office Building. This project preserves public access to the waterfront, with a new outdoor space for locals and visitors to enjoy, and it also serves as a catalyst for private investment and development.
One Canalside
One Canalside is a $30 million mixed‐use project that transformed the former Donovan State Office Building into a mixed-use development. The project began when ECHDC assumed ownership of the vacant building, remediated hazardous waste materials, and completed interior demolition. The building was then purchased by Benderson Development who stripped the building down to its steel beams and gave it a modern exterior and interior. One Canalside is anchored by the law offices of Phillips Lytle and also includes a Courtyard Marriot and Pizza Plant restaurant.
In 2012, the state supported the Harbor Center with $25 million in state tax credits. Today, this $200 million, 20-story HarborCenter is a bustling destination for the entire region, hosting two NHL regulation indoor ice rinks as well as a 205-room Buffalo Marriott. Construction alone provided about 1,600 local construction jobs over the course of two years, and the facilities are expected to create 350 full-time jobs and generate $48 million in state and local taxes over the next 10 years.
Central Wharf Extension
This project, with a state investment of $3.9 million, enhances the recreational use of the Buffalo River and Canalside, as well as the trail system along the river. Overlooking the Buffalo River, the Central Wharf is home to thousands of events each spring summer, and fall, including concerts, fitness classes, musical performances, children's activities, history tours and a local artisan market.
Grain Elevators/Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator Lighting
In November 2015, Buffalo's historic Connecting Terminal grain elevator was fit with a new lighting display that provides a direct visual link to Canalside and anchors the Buffalo River's gateway from Lake Erie. The grain elevator is lit every night throughout the year and marks another significant milestone in fulfilling Gov. Andrew Cuomo's vision for a revitalized Buffalo waterfront. The project includes a state investment of $4.2 million.
Queen City Bike Ferry
The state invested $825,000 in to the Queen City Bike Ferry, which connects pedestrians and bicyclists from Canalside to the Outer Harbor and back daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day for $1 per person each way. In 2015, its first year of operation, the Ferry exceeded expectations as it welcomed over 50,000 riders.
Future projects at Canalside include:
Explore & More Children's Museum
March 2017 saw the groundbreaking on the $27 million Explore & More Children's Museum on the South Aud Block of Canalside. The 43,000-square-foot stand-alone building will house seven educational play zones, each offering hands-on activities and exhibits that tell the stories of Buffalo for children and families. With approximately $11 million in state investment, Explore & More's project is expected to create 36 full-time equivalent jobs, in addition to 40 construction jobs, and bring 250,000 new visitors annually to Buffalo's waterfront and families.
Carousel at Canalside
In October 2016, Cuomo announced a $1.2 million state challenge grant to construct a building to house the nearly century-old DeAngelis Carousel at Canalside in Buffalo. The installation of the vintage carousel complements the rapid transformation of Buffalo's waterfront. The new building will enclose the historic, custom-designed wooden carousel to allow for year-round access, and showcase Buffalo's rich history in carousel making and its vibrant waterfront.
DL & W Terminal
The NFTA will extend Metro Rail and provide second-floor access in order to activate the site for future development. The authority is seeking bidders for the environmental studies needed to start the $42 million project. The project took a giant leap forward earlier this year when Cuomo committed $20 million through the Buffalo Billion II initiative. The idea is to extend Metro Rail beyond its last downtown stop into the DL&W, where the NFTA houses its yard and shops complex.
In addition to work at the Canalside district, the success has spurred other projects led by the state on the Outer Harbor, Buffalo River and Ohio Street Corridor:
Wilkeson Pointe
This is the state's first project on the outer harbor. The project remediated and improved 14 acres into public park space. Once a location where NYPA stored the ice boom, this area has become a popular tourist and recreational attraction, with the snack stand, sunset watching, and even yoga classes. The state's $5 million has also helped bring a kayak launch, wind sculptures and volleyball courts. Robert Indiana's work "NUMBERS ONE through ZERO," 10 eight-foot-high COR-TEN steel sculptures, weighing close to 2,000 pounds apiece, are currently on loan and displayed at the site.
Ohio Street Gateway Reconstruction Project
Managed by ECHDC, along with the state DOT, the federal government and the City of Buffalo, this reconstruction project is located along a 1.4-mile stretch of mainly vacant or underutilized land in the First Ward neighborhood of downtown Buffalo. This project, which received a state investment of $3.3 million, dramatically transformed the street into a parkway and a major waterfront arterial linking Canalside/downtown to the Outer Harbor. It has been the catalyst of several multimillion-dollar development projects, including the Buffalo Scholastic Rowing Association and the $18 million Buffalo River Landing residential development.
Buffalo Harbor State Park
As part of the 2013 transfer of almost 400 acres of land on the Outer Harbor from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to New York state, the 190-acre Buffalo Harbor State Park was designated as the 180th state park in New York's system and the first in the City of Buffalo. The Buffalo Billion committed $10 million for improvements to transform Buffalo Harbor State Park into a new visitor destination that continues the revitalization of the city's waterfront. The transformation of Buffalo Harbor State Park now offers the community a host of new recreational opportunities and unprecedented access that include a rehabilitated breakwall, rehabilitated southern revetment, enhanced greenscape, new public boat launches, redesigned parking and boating queue lines, rehabilitated marina, and new multi-use trails. Today, more than 240,000 people visit the park annually.
Outer Harbor Access & Activation Civic Improvements Project
This is a project that will enhance access and facilitate greater public use/enjoyment of 20-acres at the southern end of the Outer Harbor in Buffalo. The $5 million Buffalo Billion project includes a Greenway Nature Trail, bike park, Great Lawn and overlook. This project will be complete in May 2019.
140 Acres of Outer Harbor Land
The Buffalo Billion Phase II commits another $15 million that will build-upon and complement recent state investments on the Outer Harbor. In April, the ECHDC board approved a contract for architectural and engineering design services on remaining, state-owned Outer Harbor Lands. While the improvements will be determined with stakeholder and agency involvement, they will likely include environmental remediation, active and passive open space, habitat restoration, a restored and accessible Michigan Pier, food and beverage opportunities, signage and wayfinding, and coordination with long-term, in-water improvements by the USACOE/NYSDEC. These improvements will occur over 140 acres of land that remains largely vacant and underutilized on the Outer Harbor.
ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia said, "Much has changed in the 10 years since Canalside was opened to the public. Each day new people discover Buffalo's waterfront and we've gone from being able to count visitors in the hundreds to today more than 1.5 million per year. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo, the efforts at Canalside are spreading to the Outer Harbor, Buffalo River and beyond and I, for one, cannot wait to see what the next 10 years brings."
NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "NYPA has been a proud partner of Canalside redevelopment efforts since the very beginning through NYPA's Niagara Power Project relicensing agreements and our economic development programs. Canalside is one of our proudest examples of the Power Authority's commitment to giving back to the communities where we live and serve."
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "For 10 years, Canalside has attracted both Western New Yorkers and visitors from around the world with its stunning views, year-round activities and exciting business investments. With several exciting projects on the horizon, this transformation will only continue in the years to come. I'm proud to support New York's continued investment in making our waterfront an interactive, family-friendly destination."
New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs said, "Few things better symbolize the revitalization that has occurred in our great City of Buffalo than the successful redevelopment of our waterfront at Canalside. The unprecedented state investment, outstanding venues, family-friendly programming and entertainment, and commitment to restore public access to our greatest natural resource have transformed Canalside into a year-round destination that will serve as a catalyst of Buffalo's resurgence for many years to come."
Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, "My, how quickly time flies. We have come such a long way from the days of (a proposed) Bass Pro. It's safe to say that we made the right decision, and for that I thank the residents of WNY for voicing their opinions and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. for listening. I'm excited to see Explore and More Children's Museum trend toward completion, the forthcoming antique carousel and much more as we celebrate Canalside's 10th Anniversary."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "When Canalside first opened, I'm not sure anyone could have predicted the amazing destination it would become. Buffalo's waterfront is one of our greatest assets, and Canalside has helped Buffalo enjoy that waterfront once again. Canalside has been a huge part in the resurgence of Buffalo, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our waterfront."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "Canalside's emergence as a year-round destination highlights the tremendous growth we've seen on the waterfront and around Erie County over the past 10 years, with millions of visitors experiencing the new energy, vision and excitement surrounding Buffalo. The progress and construction that highlight the past decade are only the beginning, and we look forward to Canalside's continuing growth in coming years as more and more visitors explore our waterfront and discover all that it has to offer."

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