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Three new projects, $24 million investments announced for Buffalo waterfront

Three new projects are coming to Buffalo's waterfront, including additional access points, new streets on an undeveloped block and a future facility where a piece of history will be rebuilt.

In all, the state is committing $24 million dollars for the three projects. Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Development, represented the Cuomo Administration and delivered opening remarks. He explained that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not present because he was observing storm-related damage in the Southern Tier.

But Zemsky then added that the governor felt it appropriate that local leaders announce the projects at Tuesday's gathering inside Templeton Landing near Erie Basin Marina.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) led those announcements, stating that $10 million is being set aside to work on the North Aud Block. The parcel where Memorial Auditorium once stood will soon be rebuilt to feature the same street patterns that existed during the heyday of the Erie Canal.

"Historic street pattern, historially inspired and pedestrian oriented," said Higgins. "It will also include and underground parking area. A request for proposals will be issued this fall."

Higgins added that construction is expected to begin in 2019 and last approximately 18 months. 

Mayor Byron Brown then announced that $10 million has been committed to the development of a Buffalo Blueway, a network of public access points along the region's waterways. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is a lead partner in this project.

Representing the organization Tuesday was Katherine Winkler, who explained that more than a dozen locations have been proposed. They include RiverWorks, the Ohio Street Boat Launch, Union Ship Canal, Red Jacket Park, LaSalle Park, Wilkenson Point and more. 

"They go all the way out from the Outer Harbor to near West Seneca," Winkler said. "Some of them are current sites that are accessible to the public. You can pretty much launch from there."

Work on the first Blueway access points may begin as early as this fall. 

Assemblymember Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) announced a $4 million state commitment to construction of a longshed at Canalside. It's a structure that looks like a wooden barn and, when finished, will house construction of a packet boat, similar to the one on which New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton traveled from Buffalo to New York City in 1825, carrying his famous bucket of Lake Erie Water to empty into the Atlantic in celebration of the newly-opened Erie Canal.

Partnering with the state on this project will be the Buffalo Maritime Center. The center's founder, John Montague, suggested public opportunities to help in the construction of the craft, as well as educational opportunities similar to those provided when the Freedom Schooner Amistad traveled to Buffalo 15 years ago.

"We'd like to have everybody have a piece of this, so that people down the line, after the boat is launched, after it's going up and down the Erie Canal, after it becomes kind of an iconic piece of Buffalo, the people can say 'I worked on that,'" said Montague. 

The finished longshed will, according to state officials, be available as a flexible space for year-round events including education and activities related to the site's history.

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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