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Agency considers waterfront ideas

Recommendations to increase uses on the waterfront this summer are expected at the Feb. 8 Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. meeting.

Three subcommittees established six weeks ago under the "lighter, quicker, cheaper" motto also are working on longer-term recommendations, board members discussed at Monday's harbor agency meeting.

Staff, too, is busy, said Thomas Dee, the agency's president.

"We are working now 120 miles an hour with a to-do list that's just off the wall with how many ideas that have been generated," Dee said.

"We are also working on the accurate historical alignment of the Erie Canal. We have several concurrent activities, parallel paths, and a lot to do. In terms of 2011, it's going to be a very, very busy and exciting time."

The newly established Historical District Committee, led by harbor agency Chairman Jordan Levy, has three smaller task forces, with Buffalo Rising publisher Newell Nussbaumer chairing one focused on this summer.

Nussbaumer said he was enthusiastic about improving every-day experiences on the waterfront.

"I think we will bring some fresh views to the table," he said.

The longer-term committee is led by entrepreneur and historian Mark Goldman, with Eric Lander, a member of the Buffalo Preservation Board, overseeing a third on housing and hospitality.

There are two other new subcommittees concerned with the outer harbor and the Buffalo River. A cultural steering committee established in 2007, and operating under board member Maureen O. Hurley, also is readying proposals.

The harbor agency also voted to hire the law firm Damon Morey for real estate dealings, replacing Phillips, Lytle.

Levy said the agency wanted to avoid a potential conflict of interest, since Phillips, Lytle represents HSBC Bank, which is considering moving to the Webster Block at Canal Side.

Phillips, Lytle is also considering a move to the former Donovan building.

Levy said the harbor agency took the action although it has not held discussions with HSBC, which may vacate HSBC Tower.

"We have had no dialogue with HSBC," Levy said, "so we don't know what they are planning."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com