Erie Canal Harbor Development unveiled its plan Thursday for the Outer Harbor, with 200 acres worth of improvements that keep both the environment and visitors in mind.
In this five-to-ten-year project, marinas are maintained, there’s more access to the water, and there’s better connectivity throughout the Outer Harbor.
About 700 people gave feedback over the last year.
Many of Thursday’s attendees at the presentation are boaters who own slips on the Outer Harbor. Many liked the design but raised concerns about cost and about parking due to the new visitors the improvements aim to bring.
Parking wasn’t explicitly addressed, but the cost of the project was.
Erie Canal Harbor Development President Steven Ranalli says $15 million of the Buffalo Billion Part 2 will pay for the first phase of the $125 million project. The board will have to figure out where the rest will come from as time goes on.
As for improvements, the plan refers to three main sections.
The waterfront zone preserves the First Buffalo River Marina but adds public access to the water with a new beach, a boardwalk, concessions, and bathrooms.
Wilkeson Point to the Bell slip will have nature overlooks, trails, a sunset boardwalk, and ecological education. Throughout the design, native plantings will protect migrant birds and Times Beach.
The whole plan adheres to Buffalo’s Green Code, something Assemblyman Sean Ryan supports.
“A few years ago, we all came together to reject a plan that had condos going through the Outer Harbor, apartments buildings, big parking lots,” Ryan said. “We had several meetings, and the community responded over and over again, ‘We want our access to the waterfront back.’”
Finally, the southernmost end, referred to as Terminal B, adds an event lawn, and outdoor amphitheater, and an open-air plaza that can close in case of wind and weather.
News 4 asked Ranalli if the redesign aims to bring more events to the Outer Harbor, especially in light of the Italian Heritage Festival moving out after just two years there.
“That whole area we do see as a space for festivals, concerts, events…whether it’s the Sky Ride and a place to stop after and certain 5k runs, and certain things like that, so we will definitely have a space if people are interested in having a large-scale event at the Outer Harbor,” he said.
While the plan adds new ways to get from one end to the other, it does not add new routes for getting to the Outer Harbor. The project does expand the Queen City bike ferry and centralizes its drop-off location.
“As the place evolves and develops, we’ll have to tackle some of those connection issues further down the line,” Ranalli said.