The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board is headed to Denver on Wednesday to view an award-winning redevelopment that is similar to Buffalo's planned Canal Side project.
Harbor panel chairman Jordan Levy said the visit to the BelMar development, in Lakewood, Colo., just outside Denver, will provide "a real-life example" of the potential of the $275 million Canal Side project.
"They took an area that was total garbage and turned it into an extraordinary neighborhood that has redefined Lakewood," Levy said. "It's very much a model for what we're about to do here."
Canal Side, a 20-acre redevelopment of Buffalo's Erie Canal Harbor neighborhood -- which is to include a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store on the site of Memorial Auditorium -- is the subject of a predevelopment agreement announced last month between the harbor corporation, Bass Pro Shops and Benderson Development Co.
Larry Quinn, the panel's vice chairman, said touring Lakewood's 100-plus-acre mixed-use project and meeting with its developer will be worth the trip. Quinn, who oversaw development of the Hauptman-Woodward Research Institute on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, said the principals of that project made several trips before blueprints were finalized.
"We probably saw about six or seven labs as part of the process, and it was a big help to see what's possible, what's good, what's bad," Quinn said. "This will be a very educational experience as we make the transition to physical development."
BelMar, a multi-phase "grayfields" project, turned a failed mall site into a 23-block mix of retail, residential, office, entertainment and green space that is considered Lakewood's new downtown. Continuum Partners LLC, the private firm behind the project, has gotten rave reviews for its "New Urbanism"-based effort.
The Canal Side planners also will visit Denver's recently overhauled riverfront, which is home to sports, entertainment and retail attractions.
Levy and Quinn will be joined by at least two other board members, project architect Stan Ekstut; Todd Benderson of Benderson Development, the project's developer; and Charles Rosenow, executive director of the harbor panel. Board member Mindy Rich, vice chairwoman of Rich Products, has arranged for the group to fly on her company's corporate jet. The harbor corporation will reimburse Rich Products the equivalent of a round-trip commercial airline ticket for each board member and Rosenow.
Bass Pro Shops is not sending a representative on the Denver scouting trip.
Levy also confirmed that the predevelopment agreement announced last month among the state, Bass Pro and Benderson has yet to be signed.
"It's a matter of getting the lawyers to sign off on all the language. None of the parties have a problem with it, and nothing is being delayed by not having a final version with signatures on it," Levy said.
He said he's hopeful a final version will be ready to be signed by the board's monthly meeting next Tuesday.