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Higgins: It's about time Canalside 'hole in the ground' is filled

WNED's Jeff Dinehart

The fight is continuing between Congressman Brian Higgins and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, as the agency says it will move forward on its 2013 master plan.

Six weeks ago, Higgins and State Assemblymember Sean Ryan again pushed the ECHDC to put the plan into steel and concrete. They pointed to the $8 million that has long been available for implementation and pointed to what Ryan called "the junkyard" on the former site of the old Memorial Auditorium, where development is supposed to go.

The ECHDC says it is planning a series of new structures on what is now open space, like that used for Thursday concerts. Higgins says it is about time.

"It is encouraging to see the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation finally moving to activate their 2013 master plan for Canalside," says the South Buffalo Democrat. "For 3 1/2 years, the North Aud Block has laid dormant and in disrepair. Now, the promised Canalside hall featuring iconic Buffalo-themed restaurants and residential development are finally moving forward."

Both sides say this should be a neighborhood, with housing, stores and a group of restaurants. The city is also planning development on its adjacent land and there are other projects in the works. The proposed extension of the Metro Rail into the Cobblestone District will open up land and parking lots for more visitors and extend access to the old DL&W terminal, above the subway yards and shops and right on the Buffalo River for development.

Higgins says the ECHDC has to be pushed constantly to solve problems as it moves ahead.

"It doesn't seem to resonate with them," he says. "The fact of the matter is we should have some kind of shuttle service from the very lots that you are talking about, all of which are underused most of the time. So it would be a good use of that space. It would avoid the congestion that people experienced last year when they had The Duck and two other events in close proximity."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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