√ ECHDC board also approved contracts to advance Longshed Building Improvements
Gov. Kathy Hochul congratulated Mark Wendel on being named the new president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. Wendel will lead the state entity that supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside and the Outer Harbor in Buffalo and work to attract critical mass, private investment and enhance the enjoyment of the waterfront for residents and tourists in Western New York.
The ECHDC board of directors met and appointed Wendel as president of the corporation. Hochul’s team said, “Today’s appointment is the latest milestone in a series of announcements by Gov. Hochul to improve access to Buffalo's waterfront through the acceleration of significant projects and supporting the transformational redevelopment of Canalside's North Aud Block.”
Hochul said, “Mark Wendel is a dedicated public servant and Western New Yorker with the talent, experience and commitment to bring our vision for the region to life. With Mark on board at ECHDC, we’re ready to take Buffalo’s waterfront to the next level as a destination for residents and visitors and a catalyst for economic development. I look forward working with him and ECHDC as we continue to break ground, transform the waterfront, and boost the local economy as part of our mission to drive the region forward.”
A Western New York native, Wendel is a registered architect with experience in urban planning, design and economic development. He has been an employee of the corporation since 2019 and succeeds Steve Ranalli, who earlier this year was named president of the Erie County Stadium Corp.
Wendel said, “I am excited to continue the development projects and improve waterfront access for the public at both Canalside and the Outer Harbor. Steve did a wonderful job continuing to create both locations as a family destination and I look forward to working with Gov. Hochul to build on that success.”
ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia said, “The ECHDC board is excited to welcome Mark Wendel into the role as ECHDC president. Mark is an accomplished professional with a true capacity to effectively advance the mission of ECHDC. That being said, I also want to thank Steve Ranalli for his decade-plus commitment to ECHDC and acknowledge the remarkable progress we’ve seen under his leadership. When he began his role at ECHDC, the Aud was being demolished and the Outer Harbor was a blank slate that few even knew existed, much less visited. Today, the North Aud Block is being fully built out and transformed into a mixed-use, urban space. The Outer Harbor now has new amenities, interconnected trails, and we are in the process of redeveloping the terminals – all which bring recreation and tourism to the water’s edge.”
Prior to taking on his new role with ECHDC, Wendel served for four years as the corporation’s senior director of design. Since March, he has assisted with overall day-to-day oversight and management of all projects and initiatives within ECHDC’s 450 acres of waterfront property. Wendel also regularly coordinates on broader efforts across Western New York, contributing and assisting on concurrent initiatives of Empire State Development’s Western New York regional office and ESD’s USA Niagara Development Corp. subsidiary.
During his ECHDC tenure, Wendel’s key accomplishments have included construction of the Longshed Building, completion of the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, oversight of the design and construction of the Gateway Building at Canalside, and procurement and selection of a preferred developer for the North Aud Block. He has also managed several components in the continued redevelopment of the Outer Harbor, including the adaptive reuse of Terminal B, Bell Slip Improvements, and Wilkeson Point upgrades. He is currently managing the potential development of the Terminal A building, the redevelopment of the North Aud Block, and planning for a subsequent phase of Outer Harbor redevelopment.
Before joining ECHDC, Wendel worked as an associate principal at Flynn Battaglia Architects PC. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and has earned U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification.
A press release noted the Wilkeson Pointe improvements project on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor will start this fall. Working within an approximate 7-acre site, the area between the Wilkeson Pointe water edge and the nearby Fuhrmann Boulevard entrance will be renovated to provide a better visitor arrival and experience. The $13 million Outer Harbor Events Pavilion will be ready to host concerts and other experiences next spring. A $5 million improvement project at Bell Slip is under construction and will provide restrooms and an overlook deck at the water’s edge.
The transformation of the North Aud Block is beginning with construction starting on the Gateway Building, a multistory, state-funded structure that will allow ECHDC to manage site operations from a location within Canalside. Plans for the remainder of the North Aud Block are also progressing. The plan envisions a transformation of the nearly 2-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. In that same vicinity, the $40 million Heritage Point project is underway. It will bring 61 apartments, a restaurant, offices and retail space to Canalside.
In other meeting business, the ECHDC board authorized several contracts to incorporate select interior modifications in the Longshed Building at Canalside. Working within the existing Longshed Building, in an area beneath the mezzanine, the project will construct two transient boater shower rooms, two public bathrooms, and a harbor office. Building materials used for this additional construction will be selected to match and complement the existing Longshed finishes and their durability. These modifications are expected to be complete in spring 2024. The contracts authorized today include:
√ John W. Danforth Co., in an amount not to exceed $272,600, including contingency for mechanical construction. The scope of services will include new plumbing fixtures, bathroom ventilation, modifications to the existing mechanical system, extending the existing water to the new restrooms, and extending the sanitary connection.
√ Draghi Burgos Construction LLC, in an amount not to exceed $279,000, including contingency for general construction. The scope of services will include select interior demolition, new wall and ceiling construction, interior wall and floor finishes, new millwork and new doors.
√ Frey Electric Construction Co., in an amount not to exceed $92,850, including contingency for electrical construction. The scope of services will include new light fixtures and switches, electric connections for mechanical equipment, and running electric services from the existing panels.
Funding for all these contracts is from the New York Power Authority, through relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project. NYPA transferred the land for the park to ECHDC in May 2012 as part of the Buffalo and Erie County relicensing settlement agreement for the Niagara Power Project.
NYPA Chairman John R. Koelmel said, “I congratulate Mark Wendel in his new role as president of ECHDC, which shares the Power Authority’s vision to further revitalize Buffalo’s Canalside and the Outer Harbor. The New York Power Authority is driven by its commitment to be a good neighbor in the communities located near its statewide assets and is proud to support the redevelopment of Buffalo’s historic waterfront through our relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. was created to put Buffalo’s waterfront decisions back in the hands of Western New Yorkers. Mark is not only talented in his field, but he lives here, understands this community, and is driven by work that makes this region flourish. We are grateful to Steve Ranalli for his years of service and to Mark for taking on this leadership role. We are also happy to see further waterfront momentum with the approval of contracts that support accommodations for the increasingly active boating community.”
State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Buffalo's waterfront has grown exponentially within the last decade due to repeated state and federal investment, and with Mark Wendel now at the helm of ECHDC, I'm confident that thoughtful, strategic expansion will continue.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I congratulate Mark Wendel and wish him the best of luck in his new position as president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Hochul on waterfront development, development citywide, and with Mr. Wendel in this new capacity."