Demolition of Memorial Auditorium Nears Completion
Today Empire State Development’s Dennis Mullen, U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27th), Mayor of Buffalo Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins and other elected officials, in conjunction with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) and Empire State Development (ESD), held a ceremony celebrating the upcoming completion of asbestos remediation and demolition work at the former Memorial Auditorium (Aud) site. In addition, the attendees formally opened the Aud’s 1939 time capsule and presented prizes to the winners of the Aud demolition photograph contest.
“There are many transformational projects underway throughout New York State, yet few rival in progress, importance or impact to that of Buffalo’s waterfront revitalization effort,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The successful demolition of Memorial Auditorium moves us one step closer to achieving the vibrant inner harbor that we all know is possible; one which will positively shape the future of Western New York for generations to come.”
“While demolition of the Aud has brought some somber feelings for many local residents, the Canal Side project provides nothing short of a thrilling new chapter in the history of Western New York,” said Empire State Development’s Dennis Mullen. “ESD is a proud partner in the redevelopment effort and looks forward to continued progress in restoring the prominence of Buffalo’s once-bustling canal district.
“As we say goodbye to the Aud we welcome new and exciting opportunities for Buffalo’s waterfront,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Since the opening of the Commercial Slip just one year ago tens of thousands of people have come down to take in this transformation. With the clearing of this land we create great potential for mixed-use development that will attract thousands more to shop, eat, work and live along the water’s edge. After decades of inaction and inertia, construction trucks at this site and activity all along the inner and outer harbors are providing Western New Yorkers with a renewed confidence in ourselves and our community’s future.”
“For the past fifteen months we’ve watched the phased demolition of the historic Memorial Auditorium and have celebrated its impact on the sports, entertainment and cultural landscape of the City of Buffalo,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “Today, we are literally a few weeks away from the completion of the demolition process, which will give way to the exciting Canal Side project and a new era of waterfront development in Buffalo. While we are all sad to see the Aud removed from our landscape, we are confident the new development that will occur here will continue the revitalization of the city’s waterfront, which has already taken hold at the Inner Harbor.”
“Demolition of the Memorial Auditorium is visible proof that development of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor is a reality,” said Erie County Executive Chris Collins. “I am proud that Erie County was able to provide the necessary funding for the remediation and the subsequent demolition of the Aud, as this project will have an impact far beyond city limits. All of Erie County will be able to take great pride in the fact that Buffalo’s waterfront will be a world-class destination.”
The Aud remediation and demolition project was initiated by the harbor corporation in March 2008 and included nearly seven months of asbestos and hazardous material removal activity, as well as seven months of mobilization and demolition work at a combined total cost of roughly $7.5 million. Funding for the ECHDC-led effort was made possible through a County of Erie grant and monies received via an agreement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA).
“Just one short year after the successful opening of Erie Canal Harbor, we’re gathered yet again to celebrate the final stages of another important and visible waterfront redevelopment project,” said ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy. “While there is no doubt that a few tears will be shed for the great memories provided by the old Aud, the advancement of the Canal Side project will help us offset that loss, by bringing a new found sense of excitement and energy to downtown Buffalo and WNY.”
Aud demolition is currently over 95 percent complete, with remaining site work slated for wrap-up in the coming weeks. Once finished, the parcel will undergo significant site pad work in order to prepare for upcoming Canal Side development. During the course of the Aud demolition project, over 11,000 man hours were logged without a serious injury or project setback, while roughly 28,000 tons of materials and debris were excavated from the historic location.
“With remediation and demolition work concluding at the former Aud site, we’ve already set our sights on the next step, which is to get this parcel pad ready for future development,” said ECHDC President Thomas Dee. “Aud block preparation work is already queued-up and will commence very shortly, allowing us to continue making further Canal Side construction progress, while moving through the required state environmental review process.”
In addition, the Aud time capsule was opened at today’s event by Mayor Byron Brown, nearly 70 years after former Mayor of Buffalo Thomas Holling first sealed it in 1939. Historical records indicate that the copper capsule’s contents include text of that year’s City of Buffalo budget, two Common Council resolutions, a letter from the American Legion, a copy of the Buffalo Evening News and several personal mementos added to the box at the time of internment.
While various architectural elements from the Aud are being stored by the City of Buffalo for inclusion in a future memorial to the building, ECHDC reached a temporary loan agreement with the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS) to display the capsule and its contents for near-term viewing by the general public. BECHS Board of Managers President Kenneth P. Friedman attended the ceremony to accept the time capsule on behalf of the organization and transport the contents to the historical society for an upcoming showing.
Finally, the winners of ECHDC’s Aud demolition photograph contest were also recognized at the gathering. Mr. Peter Kogut of Snyder claimed the top award, while Mr. Jeffrey Wieczkowski of Buffalo and Mr. Randy Chudy of Salamanca received runner-up honors. Prize winners were presented with various mementos, including a pair of the building’s famous orange seats, small building bricks, “Aud Demolition Team” sweatshirts provided by Demco Inc., limited edition “Farewell Old Friend” caps courtesy of New Era Cap Company, Inc., special “Aud seat” t-shirts from City Love Clothing Company and water-color “Aud” prints by Bob Gregg Art.
A three-person panel of local professional staff photographers, consisting of Mr. Bill Wippert and Mr. Harry Scull, Jr. of The Buffalo News, as well as Mr. Mark Webster of Business First of Buffalo, judged the entries. Panelists based their evaluations on a combination of photographic quality, imagery and expressive impact.
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is a subsidiary agency of Empire State Development Corporation (ESD). Its vision is to revitalize Western New York's waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region's legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty. ESD is the New York's chief economic development agency and also oversees the marketing of "I Love NY," the state's iconic tourism brand. For more information, please visit www.eriecanalharbor.com, or www.nylovesbiz.com.