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Central Terminal gets new look as call for new train station continues

What once served as Buffalo's train station may be revived to serve in that role again, if advocates for the landmark have their way. Congressman Brian Higgins, who is urging the exploration of options for a future Buffalo train station when federal funds become available, got a tour of the space on Wednesday.

Congressman Brian Higgins says New York State is planning to spend $25 million in 2019 on construction of a new train station in Buffalo. He wants to explore options for sites now and has asked Albany to release a small portion of those funds early to support a study.

In the meantime, Higgins joined Buffalo Common Councilmember Brian Higgins on a tour of the Central Terminal, led by Central Terminal Restoration Corporation director Mark Lewandowski. The East Side landmark served as a train station until 1979 but has since hosted tours and special gatherings. 

Franczyk noted that the Buffalo firm Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects, 20 years ago, found the abandoned building to be structurally sound and reaffirmed that in a follow-up study four years ago. It still needs a lot of potentially expensive remediation, though.

"A lot of things missing are the accoutrements, some the lights and things of that nature," said Franczyk, whose Council district includes the Central Terminal neighborhood. "Of course, the mechanicals have to be addressed. But I think in this day and age, it shouldn't be incomprehensible for a project like this, for a developer that has a little bit of imagination."

The Central Terminal has advantages, advocates say, including existing rail links to cities that the current Amtrak station on Exchange Street lack, including a direct line to Chicago. It would also, in theory, be an easier site to choose given its existing structure.

"Obviously money would have to be invested into it but you're not talking about an acquisition. You're not talking about a new build," Congressman Higgins said. "And the quality of the construction here, in terms of the quality of construction itself but also the materials, presents an extraordinary opportunity."

It's an opportunity, as Higgins sees it, to spread Buffalo's economic renaissance into the East Side. The city's economic turnaround means nothing, he suggested, if it isn't reaching into forgotten neighborhoods.

"The Broadway-Fillmore area, Polonia as it's commonly referred to, is one of those forgotten neighborhoods," said Higgins. "We have to find a way to inject viability into these neighborhoods."

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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