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Central Terminal Urban Land Institute study begins, findings by Friday

What to do about Buffalo's Central Terminal has been a local question for decades. Now, a team of experts on development is in town to study the issue and make some recommendations on Friday.

The experts are from the Urban Land Institute. Based on prior Institute projects, like Richardson Olmsted complex and the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle complex, the group was invited to come back and look at Central Terminal.

A city advisory committee has already decided the Exchange Street Station downtown will be the focus of Amtrak service within the city, skipping the main station in Depew and the Central Terminal. So returning passenger trains to the East Side landmark is off the table.

Committee Chair Michael Stern said the goal is to move past use as a train station.

"As we know, the Amtrak station's going to be downtown, but I think you're right. I think it's the - A - the experience of the architecture itself," Stern said. "It's the historic memory of what took place here and sort of the opportunity for the future to create a new kind of public venue."

Fillmore District Common Councilmember David Franczyk said the old train station and its surrounding buildings cannot be looked at alone.

"It was a neighborhood around it that is regenerating itself, with new immigrants coming in. Lots of Bangladeshis moving in, in addition to the people already here," Francyzk said. "Somebody says, 'Don't you have to revive the neighborhood first?' And I said, 'There are a lot of good people trying to revive it' and this building would not only a symbol, but a reality of what can be done in historic preservation and adaptive reuse."

Committee members expect to interview around 100 people Tuesday, as the quick plan moves along. One of those to be interviewed is Hamilton, ON developer Harry Stinson, who is continuing to work on his $100 million plan for the terminal and its surrounding structures.

They are looking at the landmark abandoned train station and the massive array of deteriorating support buildings surrounding the tower. Key questions include the possibility of residential uses and whether or not to get the plan for the future involved with the transportation history of the terminal.

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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