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Final design plans for Canalside neighborhood taking shape

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation
The latest rendering of what a Canalside neighborhood would look like.

The final shape of a planned Canalside neighborhood is getting closer, as the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation on Wednesday showed off some possible designs for development on the site of the former Memorial Auditorium, now called the North Aud Block.

The old Aud space has been the tooth needing a root canal in the success of Canalside. The drawings shown off to an ECHDC meeting reveal what might go into the vast pit in the ground.

Below grade, it is likely to be an enormous parking ramp facing the Niagara Section of the Thruway, so there is more space for the view over the lake. On the surface, the renderings showed off five buildings along one side of what is now the Canalside ice rink.

Credit T.Y. Lin International

ECDHC President Steve Ranalli said there are still some questions, but the final plan is close. Ranalli said this should be a big construction year on the waterfront.

"This year, we're going to see Sinatra break ground. We're still hopeful with the Benderson project across the street., once the utilities and the Main Street work is done there," he said. "If we can get those two up and running, while those are happening, on the North Aud Block we'll go through the process for our general project plan updates, as well as environmental, SEQR analysis, we'll do on this."

Sinatra's Heritage Point is a $21 million project somewhat paired with the buildings shown off Wednesday, although Sinatra's will be much higher. The premise is that the hundreds of apartments coming in these developments will be the financial basis for small businesses in those new buildings, creating a new neighborhood overlooking Lake Erie.

Credit T.Y. Lin International

"It builds out and hopefully makes a viable neighborhood or the beginnings of one to really fill in," said Herb Guenther, architecture group leader for T.Y. Lin International. "This is a very historic part of Buffalo and how it linked back to the city, and we hope we are going to reinforce those connections by having a real active hub, activate Pearl Street, with what's happening at the One Seneca tower, and really, what's happening with the new train station and Washington Street and try to link that all together."

Michael Watson said he would just like to see it get done.

"I've been looking at that hole for far too long, which is why I want to see something done," he said, "and I think this offers enough of everything - spaces for people to walk around, places for business, places for people to live - and it just looks nice and it just needs to be done."

Credit T.Y. Lin International

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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