Partners chosen to transform 2-acre vacant parcel into mixed-use commercial, retail & residential spaces, further reconnecting Buffalo to its historic waterfront
√ Construction to advance on $14.25 million Canalside Gateway Building; will be first building within now-vacant North Aud Block
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced actions to advance construction of the Canalside Gateway Building and transformation of the North Aud Block in Buffalo – projects her team said, “are key to the ongoing revitalization of Buffalo's downtown and waterfront district.”
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. met Monday and approved items related to both projects.
"Canalside has become a destination location and catalyst for renewal of Buffalo's historic waterfront, and redeveloping the North Aud Block will continue to write the Buffalo comeback story," Hochul said. "As we work to transform the Buffalo waterfront, this vacant parcel – the last of the state-owned parcels at Canalside – will boost the economy and create new spaces where residents and visitors will want to live, work and play."
A press release stated, “In January 2022, the ECHDC board adopted a Canalside modified general project plan that described the community-supported development plan for the North Aud Block. The plan envisions transformation of the nearly two-acre vacant parcel for a mix of commercial, retail and residential uses in several buildings that would reflect portions of the original 19th century street grid while also adapting and incorporating 21st century infrastructure and amenities. As adopted, the estimated development plan for the North Aud Block parcel includes nearly 425,000-gross-square-feet of development space and up to 450 parking spaces in a structured ramp.”
The Canalside North Aud Block development plan also includes the "Canalside Gateway Building," a multistory, state-funded structure that will allow the ECHDC to manage site operations from a location within Canalside. The remainder of the North Aud Block will be dedicated to mixed-use development.
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. Chairman Robert Gioia said, "The development of the North Aud Block will connect Canalside to Buffalo's established business district, and we couldn't be more excited to move forward with a plan for this vacant land. We heard that visitors to Canalside want more amenities, and these projects will provide that, along with an authentic look and feel to this mixed-use, urban space."
The press release said, “The ECHDC board approved the transfer of property to and from the City of Buffalo to maximize public benefit from North Aud Block development. In order to proceed with the North Aud Block projects, three small parcels will need to be transferred (two from the City to ECHDC, and one from ECHDC to the City). The land transfers, which will require City of Buffalo Common Council approval, will be completed for $1 each. ECHDC has also agreed to relocate a portion of the city's sanitary sewer for approximately $850,000.”
The ECHDC board approved design of the Canalside Gateway Building and awarded a construction contract to Manning Squires Hennig Co. for its construction. The $14.25 million project will be the first building within the now-vacant North Aud Block site and bring public amenities to Canalside.
The press release stated, “The project includes building a three-story masonry and steel frame structure at the northeast corner of the Commercial Slip, with direct access from the canal towpath level. The interior space will include public restrooms, an ADA-accessible route from street level to the tow path, commercial space and a security office. The top two floors will house ECHDC office space and conference rooms. The building's exterior will include site lighting for the canal and perimeter pedestrian paths. The building's design follows the recommendations of the Canalside Design Review Committee, a group of five registered architects and landscape architects.”
The construction project is slated to begin in spring 2023 and be complete in February 2025. Funding for the project is from the New York Power Authority, through relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project. In 2022, NYPA accelerated the remaining annual payments tied to the Niagara Power Project's 50-year operating license, providing a lump sum of more than $54 million to ECHDC for its use in developing the Buffalo waterfront.
Renderings of the Canalside Gateway Building are here.
New York Power Authority Chairman and Buffalo resident John R. Koelmel said, "I am pleased to see New York Power Authority funds contribute to the further development of Buffalo's waterfront. By developing the North Aud Block, Canalside will be better suited to accommodate more visitors and residents, spurring the local economy and encouraging more investment."
The press release said, “The ECHDC board also selected Pennrose NY Developer LLC as the preferred developer of the North Aud Block. Pennrose, located in Brooklyn, is a national leader in the development and operation of market-rate, mixed-income and mixed-use communities. Pennrose is currently working with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority on redeveloping the nearby Perry Projects. Pennrose has teamed with MSquared, a women-owned and managed social impact real estate company, and the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, focused on the vision that all residents of Western New York can succeed and thrive in a culturally inclusive community.”
Following this designation, ECHDC will negotiate the principal terms and conditions of a development agreement.
See rendering of North Aud Block here.
A rendering of Canalside Gateway Building courtesy of the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In other ECHDC board actions:
•Eric Reich was named to the ECHDC board, succeeding Julie M. Bargnesi. Reich is cofounder and longtime leader of Campus Labs, one of the region's first successful startups. Reich also cochairs the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and is a board member of the Erie County Stadium Corp., 43North and TechBuffalo.
•The Buffalo History Museum was awarded a $275,000 contract to partner with ECHDC for the “Erie Canal Bicentennial at Canalside.” Hochul’s team said, “The museum is uniquely qualified to provide accurate historical research, including collaboration and coordination with underrepresented communities, and identification of appropriate artifacts that will tell the story of the Erie Canal's impact on Buffalo.”
•Entered into a contract amendment with Fisher Associates for architectural and engineering services on the Outer Harbor. The contract amendment allows the consultant to provide construction administration over the final improvement projects at Bell Slip and Wilkeson Pointe.
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "New York state has steadily invested in the transformation of our waterfront for years, and the development of the North Aud Block is yet another example of a broader vision for a collaborative, community-driven space. This project will open up new opportunities for economic growth throughout the corridors to Canalside, and I look forward to seeing it move forward in the months ahead.”
Assembly member Jon D. Rivera said, "The imminent redevelopment and transformation of the North Aud Block represents yet another step in the dramatic revitalization of Buffalo's waterfront. Through the past decade, smart investment and a combination of recreation and dining opportunities have turned Canalside into one of the city's premier outdoor destinations. When the Canalside Gateway Building is constructed and the North Aud Block is fully redeveloped with retail, restaurants, office and residential units, the area will rightly reclaim the sort of buzz and activity that epitomized the former Buffalo Memorial Auditorium that once inhabited the space."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "The North Aud Block is not only a historic place in Buffalo, it is a key component of the transformation taking place downtown and is a big piece of the final picture. This positive development brings a historic look to the project while providing the spaces and amenities that will bring visitors downtown and to Canalside."
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "This is another exciting milestone in the transformation of Buffalo's waterfront, as we continue to make our Inner Harbor a better place, to live, work and visit, while creating a significant number of jobs for our residents and adding to the city's tax base. I thank Gov. Kathy Hochul for her continued leadership and significant investment in Buffalo, through the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp."
In May 2022, Hochul announced the ECHDC's request for proposals for private development of the North Aud Block and, in August 2022, she announced the acceleration of NYPA funding for the Buffalo Waterfront, including the Canalside Gateway Building.
ECHDC 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 the New York state governor and are appointed by the New York State Urban Development Corp. (dba 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 ECHDC supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside, the Ohio Street corridor and the Outer Harbor.