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Home > About BNE > Press Room > 2010 Archive > January > Construction Start Eyed for Canal Side

Construction Start Eyed for Canal Side

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Construction on the nearly $300 million Canal Side project in downtown Buffalo — including the oft-discussed Bass Pro store — is expected to start by early June of next year.

The proposal cleared a major hurdle Tuesday morning when the directors of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. unanimously recommended a mandated general project plan. The action sets the table for the Empire State Development Corp. to approve the Canal Side development plan on Friday morning.

The plan, which was formally introduced earlier this fall, calls for a major transformation of a 20-acre parcel along lower Main Street near HSBC Arena into a mix of canals, shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. Pending final environmental reviews, the first phases of the development could open by late 2011.

“The idea is to take a blighted area and make it vibrant in a mixed-use setting,” said Tom Dee, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. president. “It will be a place of year-round activity while transforming an area that has been under utilized for decades.”

The development calls for nearly $141 million in private-sector investment, mostly through projects developed by Benderson Development Corp., and another $154 million in public-sector support.

Benderson, sources have said, is negotiating with Marriott Corp. to bring two hotels to the Canal Side project. Benderson will develop approximately 12 parcels within the Canal Side footprint that could result in slightly more than 900,000-square-feet of retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, office and hotel space developed.

The entire Canal Side project calls for slightly more than 1 million square feet of new space developed, including a 130,000-square-foot Bass Pro store where Memorial Auditorium once stood.

Gov. David Paterson, on Saturday, announced that $50 million in new funds from the New York Power Authority will help underwrite the Canal Side project. The authority, through a 2005 pact negotiated by Rep. Brian Higgins, already pledged $279 million for regional waterfront improvements during the next 20 years.

“The recommendation of the GPP is yet another important milestone in our drive to make Canal Side a reality for the people of Western New York,” said Jordan Levy, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. chairman.

Some of the funds, approximately $4 million, will be used to as an incentive to lure a second, major anchor retailer to complement Bass Pro. Negotiations are underway with that second, undisclosed tenant.

Dee said he expects the RFPs for the design-build aspect of Canal Side to hit the streets in January and with bids due back by April. The winning firm will be awarded by late April or early May, with the construction to start by June.

LiRo Engineers Inc., which has a Buffalo office on Delaware Avenue, was awarded a $1.77 million contract to serve as Canal Side construction monitoring firm. LiRo was the lowest of three bidders. The firm has worked on two other Canal Side projects — the demolition of Memorial Auditorium and future development plans for the Gen. Donovan State Office Building.

Dennis Mullen, Empire State Development Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, called Canal Side “a beacon and reference point for other communities to point to.”

“There is more ahead of us than behind us,” Mullen said.