HARBORcenter project passes three key tests
Sabres owner Terry Pegula's ambitious HARBORcenter project in downtown Buffalo received three major votes of approval Tuesday. Buffalo's Common Council unanimously approved the $2.2 million sale of the Webster Block for the project. Lawmakers voted following a public hearing. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he is "very pleased."
"The footprint did expand a bit and certainly we are very pleased that the Sabres are paying full assessed value for the land that's being purchased," Brown said.
Earlier Tuesday morning, the $172 million mixed-use complex received $36.7 million in tax incentives from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. That includes $28 million in property tax breaks over the next ten years.
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation also signed off Tuesday on the design of the complex, which is planned for the Webster Block across from First Niagara Center.
Plans for HARBORCenter includes two ice rinks, a 200-room hotel, restaurant and retail space, and a parking garage.
The plan includes provisions for good pay for workers in Sabres facilities, minority and women business opportunities and a boost for the image of the Waterfront with a series of smaller projects underway.
HARBORcenter President Cliff Benson says it's a solid design providing lots of parking for events besides hockey games.
"What we heard from a lot of constituencies, Erie Canal Harbor Development for one, they desperately need more parking for the events that they want to try to develop right next door. I am mindful of the fact that there is parking down the street," said Benson.
Preservationist Tim Tielman has some strong reservations about the massive size of the building.
"What is essentially a parking ramp being build on Webster," said Tielman. "This Webster block is one of the most historic parts of the city of Buffalo."
Tielman says there will also be traffic problems because of the narrowing of Perry Street and Washington Street for the project.
Fillmore District Common Council member David Franczyk says some citizens are skeptical of that design and are worry about traffic because HARBORcenter will force narrowing of Washington Street and Perry Street.
City officials admit there will be traffic problems but probably no worse than now around a hockey game.
Construction could begin as early as next week with a possible ground breaking on March 1.