$87 million project underway at DL&W Terminal for new commercial activity center & Metro Rail Station
√ Roadway, safety improvements to Tifft & Louisiana streets to create waterfront parkways
√ Projects increase waterfront accessibility, recreation, will help further boost development
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the acceleration of several significant projects along Buffalo's waterfront. Advanced funding from the New York Power Authority to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. will jumpstart four major projects on the Outer Harbor and at Canalside.
Her team said, “These projects complement recreation and transportation measures that will promote pedestrian access and continued equitable growth of the waterfront. This accelerated plan builds on more than a decade of progress spearheaded by ECHDC to restore 21 historic acres at Canalside and 200 acres on Buffalo's Outer Harbor that has resulted in more than $300 million in new development and over 1,000 annual events.”
Hochul said, "We're writing Buffalo's comeback story, and it starts with tapping into the unlimited potential of our city, including parks, infrastructure and amenities. We're going to completely transform our waterfront into a destination for everyone to enjoy, and we're investing now to get these projects off the ground and finished earlier than expected. I thank Rep. Higgins for prioritizing these projects, and for his partnership to ensure that future generations of New Yorkers can enjoy all the natural beauty and recreational opportunities that our state has to offer."
At Hochul’s direction, NYPA will advance relicensing agreement (RA) and industrial incentive award (IIA) payments to ECHDC, which otherwise would have been due over the course of nearly a decade. The NYPA board of trustees approved the acceleration of RA payments in March, and is expected to review the acceleration of IIA payments in September. As a result, ECHDC will have access to $54.2 million this year, which will accelerate planned projects along Buffalo's waterfront, in some cases by as much as three years. ECHDC has identified Wilkeson Pointe, the Bell Slip, the Gateway Building at Canalside and the Buffalo Riverwalk Feasibility Study as initial priorities for use of this funding. NYPA has previously made $72.1 million available to ECHDC in support of its project work. Over the course of the 50-year operating license for the Niagara Power Project, NYPA is providing over $1 billion worth of benefits to Western New York.
Moreover, $25 million in upgrades will also be made to Buffalo Harbor State Park, with the installation of a splash pad near the existing playground and shade structures. The projects will also expand the existing playground to include four new accessible play pieces. Project renderings are available here.
Hochul also announced the $87.5 million project to reuse and reactivate the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) Trainshed is underway. The site will be a new commercial activity center on the Buffalo River waterfront with a new Metro Rail station enhancing public access to some of the region's most popular attractions in the Canalside and Cobblestone districts, which have transformed from blighted landscapes into premier waterfront destinations over the past decade.
The first two phases will construct a Metro Rail Station in the DL&W Trainshed and extend Metro Rail service from the current terminus at Erie Canal Harbor Station into the trainshed. Phase one, which includes rail systems and site work, will be completed soon, with phase two work on the building, structures and mechanical/electrical/plumbing to be completed in 2024. A third phase of the project will make improvements to the core and shell of the DL&W Trainshed and other improvements necessary for private sector activity in the trainshed. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will also construct skywalk connections to KeyBank Center and make improvements to the riverwalk.
The New York State Department of Transportation's five-year capital plan, with funding from President Joe Biden's “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” also includes several projects to improve roadways and enhance safety along new waterfront parkways at Tifft and Louisiana streets. This includes a $25 million investment in traffic calming to reduce speeding, installation of bike lanes and a new, shared-use path at Tifft Street. An additional $25 million investment will fund a new bridge, streetscaping and improved safety on the parkway along Louisiana Street.
Higgins said, "Investments over the last 15 years have transformed Buffalo's waterfront from old, industrial and inaccessible to one that is vibrant, welcoming and destination for all. Under the leadership of Gov. Hochul, we will now be able to accelerate the pace of waterfront progress in Western New York. New amenities, enhanced parks and parkways, interconnected trails, and the rebirth of the DL&W Terminal are no longer dreams in the distant future, but funded certainties along Canalside and Buffalo's Outer Harbor over the next few years."
NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, "The Niagara Power Project – through its harnessing of the Niagara River waters to produce low-cost electricity for the benefit of the Power Authority's business and government customers in the region and throughout New York – has stood out as an engineering marvel since first operating in February 1961. We at NYPA are pleased to support these economic development and environmental improvement projects, as they will have an immediate and enhancing effect on the Buffalo waterfront."
NYPA's advance payments will also accelerate projects at Canalside and the Outer Harbor, as well as to support ECHDC's ongoing operations and maintenance efforts. The state will expedite the following projects, and ECHDC will also identify additional projects for commencement or acceleration in the future, working in collaboration with local stakeholders:
√ Wilkeson Pointe: ECHDC will invest $10.61 million to reconstruct the site to provide permanent amenities and refined spaces for programming and events. A permanent, seasonal comfort station including food, beverage and restrooms will be constructed, with ancillary seating areas consisting of decks, lawns and sand areas. This area will become the center of activity at the site and will support programming, events and seasonal recreational activities at the facility and at adjacent lawns and open spaces. With the site heavily programmed this summer and next summer, the project will begin in fall 2023 and be open to the public in 2025. Project renderings are available here.
√ Bell Slip: ECHDC will invest $5.83 million in the Bell Slip, with $2 million coming from Buffalo Billion 2 programming. The original Textron-Bell Aerospace "Hovercraft Building" remnants will remain as part of the site's history, while the area north of the slip would be reorganized with enhanced landscaping, a comfort station (including restrooms and parking, which, together, create a new sense of place for the Bell Slip). Groundbreaking is planned for early October 2022, and the new Bell Slip will open to the public in spring 2024. Project renderings are available here.
√ Construction of the Gateway Building: ECHDC will invest $12.61 million in a multistory, brick structure, built along the northern edge of the Main Canal and fronting the Commercial Street Bridge and Immigrant Steps. The Gateway Building will be the first stop for all visitors, providing information, public restrooms and ADA accessibility between the two-level Canalside site, while consolidating waterfront operations at the same location. Project renderings are available here.
√ Buffalo Riverwalk Feasibility Study: The Buffalo Riverwalk will consist of a system of universally accessible and elevated walkways, fishing piers and dock level promenades along the Buffalo River and Kelly Island shoreline connecting Canalside and the Outer Harbor through a unique experience. The Buffalo Riverwalk concept is supported by the City of Buffalo and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, both of which have contributed funding toward this study.
Having already implemented the seasonal Queen City Bike Ferry and Ohio Street multiuse pathway, ECHDC will contribute $41,250 to close the gap on this $150,000 feasibility study, and “further the community's shared goal of better-connected areas of the Buffalo waterfront.” The study is currently underway with a final report coming this fall.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "Buffalo is a city on the rise, and reclamation of the waterfront, being accelerated under Gov. Hochul's leadership, showcases the Queen City's remarkable transformation. The extensive public improvements at Canalside and the Outer Harbor bring both recreation and tourism to the water's edge where it had long been void, while increasing waterfront accessibility and economic opportunity for the region."
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Buffalo Harbor has allowed thousands of Western New Yorkers to enjoy the marvelous Buffalo waterfront, and Gov. Hochul's announced improvements will only enhance the opportunities for all visitors. I thank the governor for her ongoing support of the Buffalo waterfront as well as all of our New York State Parks."
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "Under Gov. Hochul's leadership, New York state is making historic commitments to the City of Buffalo that will fuel economic growth and prosperity for decades to come. From investments in the waterfront to our transformative Kensington Expressway project, we are helping to create a better future through smart transportation projects that connect communities in the City of Buffalo and across Western New York."
State Sen. Sean Ryan said, "Access to our beautiful waterfront is one of the things that makes Buffalo such a great city to live in and visit. These investments will make it safer and easier for families to get to and from the Outer Harbor, Canalside and all of the other great attractions along Lake Erie. I thank Governor Hochul for recognizing the importance of community connectivity to the waterfront and funding these transformational projects."
NYPA is the largest state public power organization in the nation, operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. For more information visit www.nypa.gov.
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. 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.