After a long wait, Canalside is finally on the way to fulfilling its promise - The Buffalo News

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After a long wait, Canalside is finally on the way to fulfilling its promise

What once seemed stuck in permanent stasis at Canalside, especially compared with the privately funded efforts going on around it, finally has momentum.

The beds for the replica canals at Canalside have been dug and redug and now we’re finally seeing progress above ground level. Two cranes have lifted the first of what will be three bridges into position, while workers east of the bridge install blocks of granite.

The work at the old Memorial Auditorium site is taking shape, giving onlookers a more-vivid outline of the bustling district to come. The first step is the historically aligned canals, expected to be finished in the fall in time to allow ice skating this winter.

The winter will bring a different vibe on the waterfront. It’ll still be cold, of course, but the hearty and enthusiastic will have an ice surface three times the area of the Rockefeller Center rink on which to skate. Or attempt to skate. It’s all the same.

It seemed like we’d never reach this moment. Last year, the state project to re-create the historic canals on the Aud site hit a snag, and stayed snagged. Meanwhile, HarborCenter and One Canalside, both private projects, rolled on. For too long, the view of the Aud site from the train went unchanged.

But those days are past. The Whipple truss bridge, similar to the one at the nearby Commercial Slip, was installed at Lake Street. Two larger bridges are expected to be put in place over the canals during the next six weeks.

Plans for the South Aud buildings are in the design phase, and bids are expected to go out by the end of the year. There will be lots to do just at this spot, with the Explore & More Children’s Museum and a mixed-use building each occupying 40,000 square feet of space, followed by a building set for restaurants and bars that totals 15,000 square feet, and a 5,000-square-foot rest area.

A key piece of the downtown waterfront puzzle is starting to come together in visible ways.

The former Donovan State Office Building has already been transformed into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and headquarters of the Phillps Lytle law firm, and the HarborCenter, where two ice rinks, a Marriott hotel, a parking ramp and a blend of retail and office space is going up across from First Niagara Center.

And now bridges of progress are taking shape at the old Memorial Auditorium site. Good to finally see.

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