Public, Residential, Commercial Space to Create 24/7 Atmosphere at Water’s Edge
Bass Pro Shops on Central Wharf will anchor Canal Side
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. today approved a comprehensive plan to transform Buffalo’s Inner Harbor District with a mixed-use development that will include shops, houses and cultural attractions.
The $275 million project is to include museums, a marketplace, an arcade, a marina, a public plaza, housing and a hotel. The cost of the project is estimated to be split evenly between public funds and Benderson Development Corp. Some additional costs are to be borne by Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, which under the predevelopment agreement approved today will become the first major tenant at the site. The construction will respect both the environment and the history of the area with facades that preserve the 19th-century look and feel of the harbor area.
“This is a significant project that will both energize development in Buffalo and connect the downtown area to the waterfront,” Gov. Eliot Spitzer said. “I would like to commend Empire State Development Corp. and its subsidiary, Erie Harbor Canal Development Corp., for the vision to take the proposal to where it is today.”
Daniel Gundersen, upstate co-chair of Empire State Development, said, “When he took office, Gov. Spitzer asked us to take a fresh look at the proposal,” referring to discussions that had been ongoing with Bass Pro. “We decided it could, and should, be much more. This agreement creates a synergy in which the whole will be much greater than the sum of the parts.”
The Canal Side development district will include Bass Pro Shops’ 100,000-sq.ft., three-story retail store built overlooking the Inner Harbor. The wood, glass and brick building with multiple roof lines and facades will evoke the historical design of the original pre-Civil War Central Wharf building. ECHDC will construct a 20,000 sq. ft. Erie Canal Museum and 30,000 sq. ft. arcade/public market.
The remainder of Canal Side will include in excess of a half-million square feet of mixed-use space for retail, hotel, office, residential and restaurant use. When complete, the diverse array of development projects will generate nearly 1,000 new jobs, almost $9.5 million in annual sales-tax revenues and $1.2 million in new yearly property taxes for the City of Buffalo. Over the course of 20 years, the project will generate approximately $189 million in sales tax revenue.
All told, Benderson is expected to develop 200,000 to 250,000 sq. ft. of retail space; 60,000 to 80,000 sq. ft. of restaurant and entertainment space; 15,000 to 30,000 sq. ft. of office space; 75,000 to 125,000 sq. ft. of hotel space; and 40,000 to 75,000 sq. ft. of residential space. In addition, Benderson will develop parking ramps to hold approximately 1,300 vehicles on the Donovan, Webster and Historic blocks.
Public access to the water’s edge will be maintained as a result of a 50-ft.-wide boardwalk will wrap around the Bass Pro Shops store. Green space in the form of an open-air plaza located next to the store overlooking the harbor will be open to the public. The plan will animate the restored Commercial Slip and Naval Park area with new visitors as part of local cultural-tourism efforts.
The plan calls for the demolition of Memorial Auditorium and clearing of the site for retail development. Much of 2007 will be spent on required environmental and public review processes and preparation of a more detailed design. Demolition and construction are expected to start next year.
Anthony Gioia, chairman of the ECHDC, said, “We are grateful for support of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the entire Empire State Development organization which has been unwavering in its support of what we want to accomplish. We also must recognize the vision and leadership of Rep. Brian Higgins, Mayor Byron Brown, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Hillary Clinton and County Executive Joel Giambra in helping us to advance to this stage. I also salute Bob and Mindy Rich and Larry Quinn for the extraordinary tenacity they have shown in bringing us to this point today.”
According to the agreement, the ECHDC will bear the cost of site preparation and construction of the three-level building, using $25 million of the $35 million of funds that were originally earmarked by the State of New York, City of Buffalo and County of Erie when the project was announced in November 2004. The remaining $10 million will be contributed to the cost of demolishing the Aud.
Under the agreement, ECHDC will own the building and Bass Pro Shops will pay common area maintenance and fees of $300,000 a year for an initial 20-year lease with renewals to 50 years for a total of $15 million. At its cost, Bass Pro Shops will operate the Erie Canal Transportation Museum and a new harbor marina located adjacent to the store that will be open to the public.
Gioia said an architectural-review advisory committee will be appointed to assist in the design of the new construction planned for Canal Side to ensure it is in keeping with the historic nature of the site.
“Bass Pro Shops is very enthused and respectful of the historical significance of this very special location,” said Bass Pro Shops President Jim Hagale. “Of the many options that were reviewed, the recreation of the central wharf is the most exciting and authentic. Our store design will pay tribute to the heritage and national importance of the Erie Canal terminus.”
“This is a great day for Buffalo and all of Western New York,” said Todd Benderson. “We are extremely excited and proud to be a part of the revitalization of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor. Canal Side represents a landmark development opportunity that can be a catalyst for the rebirth of downtown Buffalo. We envision a vibrant and unique mixed use waterfront development that will include local, regional and national interests and become a real destination. Bass Pro Shops commitment to this project will help enable us to capitalize on our many existing relationships throughout the retail industry. We look forward to partnering with Bass Pro Shops along with ECHDC and the City of Buffalo to help create this truly unique project.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said, “This agreement, which pays homage to Buffalo’s past even as it confidently builds for the future, will jumpstart a long-awaited, mixed-use rebirth of Buffalo’s inner harbor waterfront that includes shops, housing, a marina and cultural attractions. The presence of Bass Pro will add vitality and prestige to the waterfront, and I applaud the ECHDC, Chair Ambassador Tony Gioia, and his team for their hard work and leadership in making this solid step forward a reality.”
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton said, “I am very pleased that the deal to bring Bass Pro to Buffalo’s waterfront is finally coming together. This news is proof-positive that Buffalo is an attractive location for major companies. This initiative promises to be a cornerstone of Buffalo’s effort to revitalize the inner harbor district, strengthen the city’s ties to its waterfront, and bring quality jobs to Buffalo. I look forward to working with Bass Pro to address the needs of Buffalo’s community and the best way to revitalize Buffalo’s inner harbor district.”
“This signed agreement is a positive step forward in rebuilding a Buffalo waterfront that preserves the integrity of our City’s great history and maintains public access for residents and tourists in setting that draws people downtown seven days a week,” said Rep. Brian Higgins.
“Reconnecting Buffalo with its waterfront is essential to my Administration's ongoing efforts to strengthen our city's economy and I am confident this comprehensive plan will achieve our goal of establishing a 24/7 environment along the Inner Harbor” stated Mayor Byron Brown. “The recreation of the historic Commercial Slip, the complementary addition of retail, including the future Bass Pro Outdoor World store, and other important features, as well as important public access to the waterfront, brings to fruition the type of redevelopment of Buffalo's waterfront that we have long desired.”
“I'm very confident that Bass Pro Shops will live up to the expectations that have been placed upon them" said State Sen. Bill Stachowski, whose district includes the Inner Harbor. “Governor Spitzer and Dan Gundersen have delivered on a major economic boost for this area, and I plan on working with them to develop a user-friendly Inner Harbor that brings our proud waterfront heritage back to life.”
Added State Sen. Antoine Thompson, whose district abuts the project, “It's great that we're moving forward with waterfront redevelopment and I'm glad to see the Administration continuing its commitment on reviving the upstate economy. I'm proud to be a partner in this effort.”
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt said, “I have a renewed sense of excitement for this project after learning about the new plans for the site. The recreation of the Central Wharf will complement the historic Erie Canal district, and the other mixed use development planned for the surrounding site. I am hopeful that the demolition of the Aud and the Donovan building will take place immediately so we can get right to work on implementing the plan.”