Mayor Vince Anello has chosen a traditional facade for the estimated $43 million city courthouse and Police Headquarters to be built on Main Street, opting for a design that includes elements of the 19th century Niagara Falls suspension bridge.
"I certainly believe it complements what the business community has told us about North Main Street," Anello said.
Architect's renderings of the facade were shown in December to City Council members and unveiled to the public for the first time Tuesday at a meeting of the volunteer courthouse advisory committee. They show a brick three-story building with large windows and some suspension cables atop the main entrance.
Reactions have been mixed.
Courthouse Committee member Bill Williamson said he is happy with the new facade because he was concerned with the cost and upkeep for the amount of glass in the modern design initially proposed.
"They eliminated some of the glass, and added brick. It's a more traditional building," Williamson said. "Now it fits."
Claudia Miller, president of the Main Street Business and Professional Association, said she is very disappointed with the choice.
"Would you brag about this building?" she said, speaking as a resident and not an association representative after the meeting. "It looks like a school. There's nothing extraordinary about this building."
The internationally known architect firm of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum initially presented on Oct. 2 a modern-looking courthouse that included a dramatic entrance with columns evoking the penstocks of the Niagara Power Project dam in Lewiston.
However, there was opposition from some residents and business owners, and Anello directed the firm in November to present new facade options that would appear more historical and represent the architectural past of the Falls.
"The amount of glass we have [in the chosen facade] is not drastically reduced but by putting some more brick at the face of the design it complements the other buildings more," Anello said. "I'm sure there are pluses and minuses to every rendering, but the decision had to be made and the decision was made, and we're going to move forward."
A decision on the schematic design of the building was originally supposed to be made by the end of October.
"The new building looks a lot like the other buildings on Main Street," Councilman Charles Walker said Monday of the mayor's selected design. "I think it's time to move forward as far as design and do something more up-to-date."
However, Walker said he won't oppose the mayor's choice because he is more concerned that the public safety building be constructed as soon as possible.
Councilman Sam Fruscione agreed, saying, "It's the mayor's job to pick it. I don't care what he picks. Just pick one and get it over with."
The mayor said he will send a letter today to the city's joint development team, Ciminelli Development Co. and Largo Real Estate Advisors, both of Amherst, to inform them of his choice.
Meanwhile, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the site plan of the proposed three-story building at the start of its 6 p.m. meeting next Wednesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 745 Main St.