Mayor Masiello today released his vision for downtown Buffalo as a place to "live, work and play" and will take his ideas to the public in the coming months for reaction and guidance in setting priorities.
"The future of not only the City of Buffalo but our region depends on a vital and viable downtown region," the mayor said. "This strategic plan outlines opportunities to strengthen and enhance the core of our community."
Most of the proposals contained in the Vision for Downtown Buffalo -- such as a new convention center, redeveloping the Inner Harbor and returning traffic to some of Main Street -- already have been announced, but the mayor said his plan is oriented toward achieving goals.
It would establish a review process to be finished by the end of the year for businesses, the public and government officials to comment; set up an "implementation council" to help move projects along; and establish "action teams" to be held accountable for completing projects.
The master plan identifies general areas the mayor believes should be targeted for residential construction, new development, historic preservation and redevelopment but does not call for large-scale retail projects.
The "play" component focuses on the West Chippewa/Theater District; the "live" category identifies residential opportunities north, west and southeast of downtown; and the "work" section promotes downtown as a place for information technology companies and the current mix of government offices and businesses that need to be near them.
"The key to this plan is flexibility," Masiello said. "the proposed framework will enable key stakeholders to develop consensus in a cooperate and collaborative manner."
Its suggestions for downtown include, in no order of priority:
Construct a new convention center.
Follow through with current development plans for the Inner Harbor.
Evaluate the potential for development of a casino.
Pursue development of privately financed hotels to support a new convention center.
Support development of housing.
Encourage smaller, high-technology firms that could use older office building space.
Open portions of Main Street to traffic.
Suggest priorities for extending the Metro Rail system.
Build a new rail and bus transportation hub in the lobby of the old Memorial Auditorium.
Increase two-way traffic.
Identify potential parking ramp sites and study overall parking needs.
Encourage historic preservation and preservation districts.
Improve street lighting for pedestrians.
Expand the boundaries of Buffalo Place to include the entire downtown core.
The more controversial aspects of the plan include reaffirming the Mohawk site for the proposed $124.5 million convention center. The site, bounded by Broadway and Washington, East Huron and Oak streets, was selected after a six-month review by a high-level county task force.
That recommendation, however, now is being criticized, with a grass-roots group advocating a waterfront location and some business people with real estate interests promoting a Delaware Avenue site north of the Statler Towers.
The downtown plan also lists three options for a possible casino, including the current Convention Center, a location in the Elm-Oak corridor right off the Kensington Expressway and the former Memorial Auditorium. Masiello, however, said he does not support the Aud site.
Whether a casino will be established downtown remains uncertain, because the Seneca Nation of Indians has yet to begin negotiations with the state.
Ann E. Conable, associate director of Buffalo Place, said the mayor's downtown master plan should help ideas that have been discussed for years come to fruition.
"We'll be working together with the folks responsible for getting the convention center done, the Inner Harbor done and downtown traffic done and work with the public to set goals and a timetable to get things done" she said.
In addition to Buffalo Place, the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning assisted in preparing the master plan.