Ambitious plans for Buffalo Ave. in Niagara Falls unveiled to public

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB)- An ambitious proposal for the future of an industrial corridor in Niagara Falls was unveiled Tuesday night. Architecture firm LaBella Associates presented to the public long-term proposals for Buffalo Avenue.

It’s taken the City of Niagara Falls about 10 years to get to this point. In 2007, the city got a State Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to help pay for a strategy to redevelop the corridor.

The final plan is expected to be completed by late spring 2017.

“It’s exciting to see that we have so many people finally interested in the Buffalo Avenue corridor,” said Christine Sanborn, from Grand Island.

Sanborn grew up in Niagara Falls and joined about a dozen people at the Niagara Falls Water Board offices to review the latest plans.

The Niagara Opportunity Area encompasses 1,800 acres.

LaBella Associates have narrowed down four areas to focus on: the Hyde Park Blvd.-Buffalo Ave. intersection, the Adams Transformer Plant site, Niagara Falls Blvd., and the upper Niagara River waterfront.

“Right now you have a lot of vacant and underutilized parcels and are there ways we can start to create places where people work, live, and play,” said Edward Flynn, LaBella’s planning division director.

At Portage Rd., near the Adams Transformer Plant site, they call for an “Innovation Park.” It would have office space, a hotel and conference center, and the Tesla museum.

They want to transform the Hyde Park Blvd.-Buffalo Ave. intersection into a roundabout and connect Hyde Park Blvd. to the Niagara Scenic Parkway. There would also be a waterfront pavilion.

At the LaSalle Gateway, LaBella envisions a hotel and residential properties.

They also want to see more hotels, living spaces and a research and development center on Niagara Falls Blvd.

“Opening this area up, and especially the waterfront, for access to the local population is huge not only for fishing but for walking, hiking, and biking,” said Nirel Patel, Courtyard Marriott developer and Niagara Opportunity Area steering committee member.

Patel has lived in Niagara Falls since he was a teenager and is currently working on the Courtyard Marriott on Buffalo Ave. He said these plans fit into their vision of access to the waterfront near the hotel, a connection to history and increased walkability.

“It’s an excellent addition for the local population because people of Niagara Falls have been disenfranchised for far too long,” said Patel.

Sanborn wants to know more about the sites proposed for development.

“It’s innovative but being a Niagara Falls resident from a long time ago, when many of the problems surfaced and affected us in terms of contamination, I’m very concerned about what kind of remediation would be available,” she said.

The DEC will offer advice on environmental remediation and News 4 learned some sites have already been tested.

“Some of them have been tested as part of the program, some of them have been tested independently,” said Alan Nusbaum, environmental planner and GIS coordinator for the City of Niagara Falls. “Surprisingly most of the city is nowhere near as contaminated as most people think it is.”

He said further testing will be done as the plans move forward and remediation will be done to prevent people from coming in contact with contamination.

LaBella Associates will provide the city with a final plan and a blueprint for how to implement it.

Nusbaum told News 4 we could see the corridor change in the next five to 10 years. He said it will be important to have strong partnerships with private developers to make this project successful.

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