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ECHDC board announces contract extensions to continue Erie Canal bicentennial celebration planning


Mon, Jan 8th 2024 01:30 pm

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC) board of directors met Monday and voted to approve two contract extensions that will support plans to celebrate, in 2025, the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal in Buffalo, “the birthplace of this historic and game-changing waterway.”

While the anniversary will likely be marked at events throughout New York state, ECHDC is planning a large celebration at Buffalo’s Canalside, which will also host the World Canals Conference in 2025. That event, first announced by Gov. Hochul in June 2022, will bring together canal and inland waterway enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to learn about a variety of canal-related topics.

“As we gear up for the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal in Buffalo, these contracts will allow us to continue planning exciting educational programming, entertainment and more to mark the historic milestone,” ECHDC Chairperson Joan Kesner said. “We’ll be hosting visitors from around the globe, as well as our neighbors across Western New York, to highlight Buffalo and the Erie Canal’s important role as the first navigable waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes and beyond.”

A press release stated, “Plans will support a comprehensive bicentennial celebration at Canalside, from May to September 2025. The event will highlight Buffalo’s transformed waterfront district, which has seen more than $400 million in new investment, including new hotels, a major sports arena, a children’s museum, retail shops and a recreated waterway on the footprint of the original Erie Canal in the Queen City. Today, the Buffalo waterfront attracts more than 1 million persons annually.”

The two contract amendments are:

•A $3.488 million contract amendment (for a total contract amount not to exceed $4.5 million) to Local Projects, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York City, to continue onto the next phase, which includes fabrication, installation and maintenance services for historic exhibits that will complement visitors’ experiences. Local Projects, with its team, has previously developed interactive exhibit concepts that bring to life historic stories at interior displays and exterior features along the Canalside site.

•A $250,000 contract amendment (for a total contract amendment not to exceed $500,000) to BMC Consulting, a marketing consultant based in Buffalo, for consulting services related to visitor experience planning. This next phase of services will allow BMC to work with ECHDC on establishing the celebration management approach, overall scheduling of events, finalizing historic content and storylines, and ECHDC’s marketing and website consultant.

The ECHDC board also welcomed its newest board member, Bryan Wittman.

The press release noted, “Wittman’s professional life has been defined for more than three decades by his innovative marketing and production of family entertainment, special events, celebrations and commercial developments around the world.

“Wittman spent 29 years working with the Walt Disney Co., expertly planning and producing his way from the promotions department to the office of corporate vice president of global special events. In that role, he was responsible for the creative development, production and marketing of major grand openings, special events, entertainment and festivals for Disney Theme Parks and Resorts worldwide.

“In 2018, Wittman created and launched the Dry Creek Group, offering world-class marketing solutions for clients around the world ‘with a touch of magic.’ ”

Wittman attended St. Francis High School and is a graduate of Ashland University in Ohio. He resides in Hamburg and is actively involved with special projects for organizations including Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Buffalo Police Department Foundation, JP’s Autism Foundation, St. Francis High School and Catholic Health/Mercy Hospital.

In addition, the ECHDC board authorized a contract extension with the City of Buffalo for ECHDC to maintain rights to manage the municipal parcels within Canalside. ECHDC pays the city a base rent at $25,000 per year. The agreement between ECHDC and the city was previously entered into in June 2014 and will be extended for one year in order to allow ECHDC and the city to explore a transfer of the property to ECHDC. Under this extension, ECHDC will continue to provide: sanitation and site maintenance; site security; maintenance of the lawns and other plantings; capital repairs to the site as needed; dock management; and programming and events at Canalside. These services are provided by ECHDC through its site manager, Be R Guest.

Funding for all these contracts is from the New York Power Authority, through relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project.

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