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Recommendations for Central Terminal unveiled

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Urban Land Institute on Friday completed a week of studies and interviews, delivering its recommendations for how to redevelop Buffalo's Central Terminal.

The panel of experts brought to Buffalo by Urban Land Institute, who include urban planners and architects, offered short-term goals including the reopening of the Central Terminal's concourse for mixed-use opportunities including restaurants and park space. The ULI also recommends reopening the outer terrace and triangular park just outside the Terminal.

But any new use of the Terminal must be part of a broader plan to redevelop the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, planners said. Developing the former train station by itself is insufficient, they suggest, if the neighborhood too is to grow. They pointed to other assets nearby including the Broadway Market, Adam Mickiewicz Library and Torn Space Theater, nearby historic churches and other assets.

'It's also important to concurrently and compatibly invigorate the Broadway-Fillmore community," said Jennifer Ball, one of the ULI panelists. "That investment is warranted. This is a neighborhood in need. It suffers from physical and demographic characteristics that lag behind other Buffalo communities, notably declining population, lower median incomes, higher poverty rates and poor housing conditions."

The Central Terminal is cherished by many Western New Yorkers for its history and architecture. Earlier this year, when the search was on for a recommended site for a new Buffalo train station, many within the community passionately campaigned to reopen the Terminal for that purpose. But the ULI experts suggested many may not fully appreciate its potential.

"I think the whole point of our presentation and our report is that we have to create the interest and the engagement," said ULI participant Michael Stern. "We believe the community is not fully aware of what a great facility this is. The first step that we're proposing is extensive event programming and renovation of the concourse level to facilitate that."

The ULI also recommended that the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, which has overseen the landmark and its programming over many years, transition from a volunteer-driven organization into a formal not-for-profit entity with paid staff. The recommendation includes renaming that new entity the Central Terminal Corporation, dropping "Restoration" in order to focus on "rebirth."

The ULI experts did not offer a specific cost for revitalizing the Central Terminal and nearby neighborhood but estimated it in the millions, and said it would take a combination of public and private dollars. 

Howard Zemsky, who heads Empire State Development, urged patience. He noted it took many years for other local landmarks, including the H.H. Richardson towers and Larkinville, to realize their revivals.

"This is a week in the life of an interesting and compelling building that has many years of evolution ahead of it," Zemsky said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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