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Proposals to be sought for site near hockey arena Year-round attraction eyed for parking lot

The city -- and the public -- should know in June who's interested in developing a prime 1.7 acre parcel across from First Niagara Center and a stone's throw from Canalside.

A request for proposals will be issued Monday, seeking a developer or development team for what is now a surface parking lot in front of the HSBC Atrium, between Main, Perry, Scott and Washington streets.

The Brown administration wants a year-round destination for the emerging waterfront area, and the request for proposals was broadly worded to cast as wide a net as possible, city officials said.

The request is expected to say that the city will be willing to partner as the owner and funder of a parking structure. The city currently does so at HSBC Tower and Main Place Mall, with the parking eventually to revert back to the owners.

The Buffalo Sabres, developer Carl Paladino and Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps have previously expressed interest in acquiring the Webster Block property. The Sabres plan could include public ice rinks for use by individuals, teams and schools, sources have said.

"This is an exciting time for downtown Buffalo and its waterfront. For the first time, city residents and visitors have a vibrant and lively waterfront destination that keeps them coming back," Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a statement.

"We've made great progress in a remarkably short period of time along Buffalo's waterfront, and now we're ready for private development to build on the momentum by reinventing this prime piece of city-owned land."

The issuing of the request for proposals comes after announcements in recent months that the vacant Donovan Building one block north will become home to both a Courtyard by Marriott and the Phillips Lytle law firm.

In addition, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which has made major strides in making the Erie Canal Harbor a summer attraction, is about to break ground on historically accurate canals -- where Memorial Auditorium stood -- that could be open for ice skating next winter.

The waterfront agency is also planning to choose from among three operators this month seeking to locate an interactive children's museum at the site.

"It's obviously a very strategic site relative to Canalside," said locally based developer Paul Cimenelli. "With the development going on there and obviously the existing arena, I think [the RFP's] going to draw a lot of interest."

Brown revealed the city would issue the request for proposals in his State of the City address Feb. 15, expressing hope it would draw interest from local and national developers and promote further private-sector investment. The RFP took a month longer to be issued than expected.

The block has in the past decade been targeted for an Adelphia Communications regional headquarters, Canalside hotel and regional HSBC Bank headquarters.

The registration deadline is May 25, with proposal submissions due by June 15. Beginning Monday, the RFP and registration information will be available at