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Higgins seeks to transform terminal

The former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Terminal, at the foot of Main Street, has sat vacant for years as First Niagara Center, followed by Canalside and now HarborCenter rose from the ground to become popular destinations.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which houses Metro Rail cars in the DL&W’s train shed, is considering the reuse of the first floor for a new light rail station. Now, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, wants to jump-start potential use on the second floor.

Higgins will call on Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. Tuesday to capitalize on the waterfront’s popularity by investing about $10 million to get the top floor development-ready.

In a separate project, the congressman wants a similar amount spent on the creation of a river trail on Kelly Island, which has seen the growing popularity of Buffalo RiverWorks and Silo City, as well as large-scale investments underway in infrastructure and housing on the opposite shoreline along Ohio Street.

“These two transformational projects will allow visitors and residents of Western New York the ability to enjoy the Buffalo River waterfront in ways that have been denied them for generations,” Higgins said.

Higgins said the DL&W’s second floor has 75,000 square feet, with an additional 35,000 square feet of patio space overlooking the Buffalo River, with the building in close proximity to numerous waterfront and Cobblestone District attractions.

“The DL&W sits there as a big, empty structure on prime property. It has great potential to be an attractive private sector development, but for the fact it needs a lot of work,” Higgins said.

Developer Rocco Termini said he’s long believed a public food market or other regional attraction could succeed at the DL&W. But he decided a couple of years ago the cost of rehabbing the building was prohibitive for such a venture. He welcomed Higgins’ call.

“I definitely think that would be an incentive to get somebody to really look at this. You’ll be able to get historic tax credits and put that on top of the money the state’s putting in,” Termini said.

Higgins said the need for improved access on Kelly Island to activate this stretch of Buffalo’s waterfront has been identified in two recent planning studies and in planning initiatives that date back 25 years.

Kelly Island is a small area of land in between the City Ship Canal on the west and the Buffalo River on the east, across from the Ohio Street corridor. It’s accessible by Ohio Street and the Ohio Street and Michigan Avenue bridges.

The multiuse trail Higgins is calling for on Kelly Island would follow along the Buffalo River and away from Ganson Street and the General Mills plant at Ganson and Michigan Avenue as much as possible. Higgins also said pedestrian and bike improvements were needed on the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

“I think the river trail perfectly aligns with the vision that Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has had for over 25 years,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. “The Buffalo River Greenway has been envisioned as a contiguous system of green space and public access along the entire length of the Buffalo River.”

Higgins wants the waterfront agency to pay for both projects by using $32 million he said has been set aside to build parking structures from funds received from the New York Power Authority relicensing agreement in 2005. The congressman said parking at HarborCenter has reduced the need for nearby parking, and he also believes ramps should be self-financed and not paid for with the NYPA money.