The long-debated demolition of Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium is scheduled to begin in the next three weeks.
The agency overseeing revitalization of the city's Erie Canal Harbor neighborhood Tuesday approved a demolition contract that will trigger a Nov. 1 start to the venerable arena's razing.
"It's happening 10 years later than it should have, but it's really coming down," said Jordan A. Levy, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
Buffalo-based Ontario Specialty Contracting was awarded a $1.49 million contract to raze the 69-year-old building. Under terms of the contract, the firm will start work next month and the site will be cleared by May 1.
"The building is an eyesore, not a monument to our future, so getting to the point when we know who will tear it down and when it will happen is a big deal," Levy said.
Ontario Specialty Contracting's wrecking resume includes demolition of the Westinghouse Electric plant in Cheektowaga and implosion of two downtown medical buildings.
Jon Williams, a principal of the company, said like most other Buffalo area residents, he has personal memories of time spent at the arena.
"I've attended everything from Buffalo Sabres games to the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. You can't be from this area and not have an attachment to the Aud," Williams said. "But it's time to let it go because there's so many exciting things are coming in behind it."
Demolition crews could begin staging their equipment at the Aud site later this month. Currently, Flagship PDG is wrapping up the $4.1 million effort to clear asbestos and other dangerous materials from the massive arena. That work, which was scheduled for an Oct. 3 completion, has moved into overtime to remove additional asbestos discovered in the arena's roof rafters.
Larry Quinn, the harbor panel's vice chairman, noted that even with the need for a few extra weeks of work, the total price tag of abatement and demolition will be far less than early estimates.
"There were predictions it would cost as much as $20 million and it looks like we'll be under $7 million," Quinn said. "Now we just have to keep monitoring the costs to keep it that way."
At Quinn's urging, the harbor panel lowered a planned 20 percent change order contingency fund to 10 percent of the base bid price, and will also require Ontario Specialty to receive formal approval for any unanticipated expenses exceeding $25,000.
The panel also voted to cap costs tied to salvaging architectural elements from the outside of the arena at $177,000. Those funds will cover removal of the stone State of New York and City of Buffalo seals from the north side of the arena. Art Deco-style metal flag supports and carved stone eagles will also be saved.
The Buffalo Preservation Board had requested an additional $180,000 be spent to salvage the entry doors and other stone elements from the Aud, but the harbor panel said it can't afford the removal and relocation costs.
The five-acre Aud site will be home to a 125,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store, Erie Canal/Great Lakes-themed museum, and a public plaza featuring a replica canal and other water-related attractions.
Construction of the Bass Pro store and other elements is not expected to begin until next fall, when a state-required environmental review of the $400 million Canal Side master plan, which includes the Aud site projects, is completed.
Developers are expected to unveil detailed plans for the multi-site mix of retail, entertainment, office and residential space, before the end of the year.
In other action, the harbor panel voted to seek state brownfields opportunity area funds to begin to lay the groundwork for future outer harbor development. The board also received an update on alterations and enhancements to interpretive displays for the Erie Canal Harbor.