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New Longshed for Canalside's Commercial Slip sails ahead

Another large building for Canalside appears closer to reality, after the city Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday approved a series of waivers to the Green Code, while ordering one significant change in the design, for a structure known as The Longshed.

Credit HHL Architects

The Longshed would go on a key location at Canalside—on the edge of the Commercial Slip, near the bow bridge. Architects say it is a complicated site to use, made difficult by the need to retain pedestrian access all around it.

The design matches a building known to have been on that site long ago. Initially, the building would house the Buffalo Maritime Center's plan to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Erie Canal by housing a boat-building program for children.

BMC Executive Director Brian Trzeciak says boat building teaches skills.

"When they are building these boats, they are learning STEM principles. What I mean by that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, along the way," Treciak said. "When I was in school, I was learning Math and it never interested me until I was learning labeling and designing. Suddenly Math clicked."

Credit HHL Architects

The program will build a replica Erie Canal boat used nearly two centuries ago. However, longtime Buffalo Maritime Center supporter and former Zoning Board member Anthony Diina opposes the plan.

"It's an undesirable change in the neighborhood because of the pedestrian use of the facility now, the view from the restaurant of Canalside," Diina said. "I know we are running out of time. It also violates the transparency rule and it's a self-created difficulty because this building was more than well known to the architectural firm and there is no good reason to put this building on this site."

The Longshed structure will be built by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation on land owned by the City of Buffalo. ECHDC waterfront development Vice President Steve Ranalli says the plan is on a tight time line.

"We're hoping to get through the city approvals by the end of this month and then we would advertise for construction, again end of January, look to bring it to our board for award in April and get out on the site sometime in late April, early May, to break ground and have the building finished up in 2020," he said.

Credit Buffalo Maritime Center
The program will teach boat-building skills to children, as they create a replica Erie Canal boat.

Ranalli said costs aren't clear, since the design isn't final. However, HHL Architects, which created renderings of a 5,000-square-foot Longshed, estimate the cost at $4 million.

Zoning Board members didn't like the building having one blank wall near the bow bridge and told planners to turn a large roll-up door from blank into something glass for transparency. The door is needed to get the boat outside when done.

After the three-year boat-building project, the future of the building isn't clear.

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.