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Gov. Pataki is expected in Buffalo Monday to break ground for the $27 million Inner Harbor project following the release of key federal funding.

The long-awaited project will open up a quarter-mile of waterfront to a series of new boat slips, a re-creation of the historic Commercial Slip, a public plaza, a new Naval & Military Park and -- government officials anticipate -- attract additional private investment.

"This project will not only improve access to the waterfront, but create an improved climate for further economic development downtown," said Maura Gallucci, a spokeswoman for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project.

The entire project is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2001, in time for the centennial of the Pan-American Exposition. Officials hope that a companion redevelopment project led by Adelphia Communications will be under way by then as well.

Adelphia, along with Cordish Co. of Baltimore and Benderson Development Corp., revealed preliminary plans earlier this week for more than $160 million in spin-off development that would include a new office tower for Adelphia and renovation of the old Memorial Auditorium.

Although Empire State had long been projecting a September groundbreaking for the Inner Harbor project, a challenge by the New York office of the Federal Transit Administration to the $14.3 million it is providing raised
concerns in late August.

The State Thruway Authority is contributing $11.7 million to the project.

The federal obstacle was removed Wednesday when Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, persuaded the agency's top official in Washington D.C., Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, that the project had a transportation-related purpose and Congress wanted the money to go there.

"I am glad we could answer this question quickly as not to interfere with the groundbreaking of one of the most important projects in Buffalo's history," Quinn said, thanking Slater for his involvement.

The project will create four slips for displaying either permanent or visiting boats such as Edward M. Cotter, the city's historic fireboat, a large plaza suitable for concerts and other gatherings, and a re-creation of the Commercial Slip, the last link of the historic Erie Canal.

There had been a grass roots effort to restore the actual canal itself after its remains were found during archaeological digs. Officials rejected that idea as being too costly, but agreed to modify the plan to display some of the foundations of mid-19th Century buildings that once lined the canal.

Lastly, the Inner Harbor project will shift the warships displayed by the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park farther downstream near the Marine Drive Apartments. A new museum will be built and the veteran monuments in the area will be more attractively displayed.

The land side of the project is being designed by Jambhekar Strauss Architects of New York City. The water side of the plan is being done by URS Greiner.

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