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Reconnecting downtown 'neighborhood' to the Niagara River

Mike Desmond

A name from Buffalo's past is in the planning for a Greenway project in downtown Buffalo aimed at improving access to the waterfront.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
One rendering released Thursday night.

The city is calling the project Erie Shelton Square Greenway. Renderings of possibilities were shown Thursday night during a public meeting at Erie Community College City Campus, with the final decisions to be made very soon. Construction or changes are in the future, with no date mentioned yet.

Shelton Square was once a central transportation hub at Main and Church streets, lost to construction of Main Place Mall. One of the streets radiating away from it was Erie Street. It is still a connection to the waterfront, but now the first block away from Main is Cathedral Park and the next block has almost no sidewalks.

Using a state grant, an array of city and state agencies want to improve Erie to connect it to open water. In turn the hope is to reconnect Buffalo's Central District to the Niagara River. City Engineer Michael Finn said it is an access issue for drivers and pedestrians.

"We're certainly looking at ways of improving access to the waterfront with a lot of the work we do," Finn said. "Some of the proposals that you'll see tonight include turning streets that are currently one-way into two-way to do exactly that: enhance access to the waterfront and provide multiple avenues and direct routes."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Another rendering released Thursday night.

Because there are so many more people living downtown these days and so many more tourists, the planning is looking at pedestrian access as well as auto routes. There will also be better lighting and signage, so walkers and drivers can easily figure out where they want to go.

Pearl Street Grill & Brewery owner Earl Ketry said he wants a view of the Niagara River down Erie Street, which runs next to his building.

"We are rapidly becoming a neighborhood bar to the Downtown community and it's awesome," said Ketry. "Now, what I have to do is to make it easier to the tourists, to everyone that is there. I'm just excited about what the city is proposing."

Brandye Merriweather, vice president of downtown development for Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, agreed it is going to make the community better.

"This is helping kind of provide the amenities to give people an opportunity to do that and then we want people to connect, just in general, we're trying to create a downtown neighborhood," Merriweather said. "So we want to have  places for people to connect and meet and really bring those additional pieces that make a community a community."

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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