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Tour of waterfront shows transformation under way

When I came up with the theme of my presidential tenure, "City Views -- Regional Visions," I was inspired by the plans for Buffalo's waterfront and saw the potential for the region's greatest untapped resource. A recent tour of the shoreline not only reinforced my sentiment, it exceeded my expectations.

The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors recently sponsored a tour of the waterfront in conjunction with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. The three-hour tour took 46 realtors from Squaw Island in the north to Lackawanna in the south. The conclusion was unanimous: We are well beyond the planning stages.

The extent of completed development was stunning. Where once the city dump existed was a new park on Squaw Island. The Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse will be completed this month and will anchor a complete renovation of Cotter Point, an area that includes the West Side Rowing Club -- the nation's largest rowing club -- and Buffalo State College's Community Teaching Pavilion on the Black Rock Canal.

The Naval and Military Park has been completely renovated and neatly ties into the almost completed Erie Canal slip. The Cobblestone District is buzzing with activity from the offices, apartments and Morrissey's Restaurant.
Just across the Buffalo River is the recently opened Times Beach Nature Preserve. The group was able to walk an area that contained migrant birds, deer and other wildlife, and needed only to turn around to see the Buffalo skyline. As we headed south, new commerce parks housed a multitude of businesses containing light industry and professional services.

Just as amazing were the projects that have begun, ranging from the late planning stages to near completion. While considerable focus has been on the Bass Pro development and the immediate surrounding land, a two-mile length of the Buffalo River is due for a face lift that will combine condominiums, parklands, and upgrades to many businesses that depend on the waterway for their livelihood.

Cotter's Point, at the foot of Porter Avenue, is due for a major renovation. The Outer Harbor Greenbelt Project, which extends from the end of the Skyway to the Small Boat Harbor, is slated for mixed use that will provide public access as well as a home for new businesses. Additional commerce parks and parklands will become easily accessible once Fuhrmann Boulevard is reconfigured by late next year.

For the longest time, we have heard the plans for the waterfront and seen the setbacks. We have associated much of Buffalo's redevelopment with the unbuilt Peace Bridge and on-again, off-again plans for the casino and Bass Pro.
These are trees that have obscured a forest of activity. We are well along the path of redevelopment and need only to appreciate what already has been accomplished.

Patricia Taylor is president of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors Inc.

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