Planners working with the state's Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., held the first of several meetings Wednesday evening to allow the public to share their vision for the property, on the other side of the Buffalo River from downtown's bustling Canalside District.
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Some attendees with stickers of Ferris Wheels in hand, voted for attractions, by placing them on the map, others preferred parks, each looking at what would fit and be desired on a vast plot that stretches from the Small Boat Harbor to the Buffalo Lighthouse and US Coast Guard Base
"Our study area is about 171 acres. Most of us don't wake up in the morning knowing what 171 acres means, in terms of what it can contain. So one of the things we are sharing and learning about in these meetings is what can you put on a long thin strip of land with limited access to the rest of downtown Buffalo," said Karen Alschuler, a consulting planner with Perkins-Will, the firm hired to help state officials decide what to do with that property.
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"We just about finished having an existing visions report and for that we've collected some basic information," Alschuler says, adding that things like wind, weather and transportation will also be factored in to what the public suggests
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At yesterday's meeting the public also got the chance to review what has worked in other city waterfronts, to see if such developments would fit here.
"What this process will do is try to coordinate those best practices with what the passionate folks have for this area," says Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. Chairman Robert Gioia. But he warns they are not seeking one big "silver bullet" development for the property.
"And when you see the activity and the vibrancy and diversity and the crowds at Canalside ,(pictured R) we like the way that has turned out. Starting small and letting it grow, as opposed to the silver bullet theory. I don't know that there are many ideas or opportunities for that to go forward," he says.
" Many of these projects take 10 to 20 years in other communities. We have a governor who has said he's not accepting that." Gioia adds.
Three final proposals from the consultants are due in August.
A second meeting on the plans will be held Thursday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Makowski Early Childhood Center on Jefferson Avenue. A final public session will be held Saturday at 9:00am at the Old First Ward Community Center on Republic Street in South Buffalo.