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Waterfront Village – Can it get more visually pleasing?

In 1969, a Buffalo News headline read, “Waterfront ‘Village’ to challenge suburbs.”

The story, by Franklyn Buell, tells of the unveiling of “a model of an ‘in-town village’ for Buffalo’s waterfront.” The presentation was made by Paul Rudolph, a nationally known modern architect. The model shown that day to then Mayor Frank Sedita, and 50 other city leaders, was a hit.

Rudolph’s plan was ambitious. He envisioned 776 dwellings in the area bordered by Court, Fourth, Carolina and Niagara streets. His drawings clustered buildings of various shapes and sizes. Buell tells us Rudolph described his proposed village in this way: “Plenty of outside space … outside courtyards and terraces for 90 percent of the apartments … no large masses of buildings … structures staggered in plane and elevation … sloping roofs and buildings close to the ground.” Sedita liked it.

The Shoreline Apartments was the first product of Rudolph’s vision, then came the Waterfront School. Though cuts in municipal budgets forced limitations on those early components of Rudolph’s design, the spirit of his plan became visible by the 1980s, when private developers began building what we now know as Waterfront Village. In its principle mission of keeping some folks from abandoning the city for the suburbs, Rudolph’s plan succeeded.

Rivermist, a luxury townhouse development, was one of the first built in Waterfront Village. It is composed of eight waterfront buildings containing 56 units. Units have three levels of living space, and range in size from 2,200 to 4,000 square feet. They typically have one or two bedrooms. On each floor of a Rivermist townhouse there is a deck or a balcony, and each unit enjoys both a city and a water view. A private marina with 34 slips is located in the center of the development. Rivermist was developed from 1982 to 1986 by MJ Peterson.

Frank Lysiak, a resident since 1999, and community manager of the Rivermist Association, serves as property manager for the complex. He said that, like him, Rivermist residents tend to stay. “It is relatively rare for a Rivermist townhouse to hit the market. When it does, it could list anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000, and it will typically sell within 60 to 90 days.” Lysiak explained that the difference in cost is related to the amount of enhancements owners have made. “At the high end are units that have been modified and enriched over the years.”

Lysiak is also executive director of the Waterfront Village Advisory Council, a group of representatives from all of the developments that compose Waterfront Village.

There are 10 distinct housing complexes within the village; combined they contain a total of 350 townhouses, condos or apartments.

The sidewalks of the village are themselves becoming a destination. “In summer, visitors to neighboring Erie Basin Marina, or a Canalside event can be seen walking through the village,” said Lysiak.

I admit to being one of them. I often stroll the winding sidewalks of Waterfront Village passing by the residential buildings, admiring how the village matured into an inviting neighborhood with city-like streets having a lake, a river, the Canadian shoreline as its backdrop.

The amiable manager doesn’t mind. “It’s nice to see how people enjoy it,” he said, adding with conviction, “It’s just a great place to live.”

– Marilyn Cappellino