The City of Tonawanda made plans last year to turn a parking lot into an "intermodal hub," a $1.14 million project to construct a bathroom and rest stop for visitors using the bicycle and walking trails or taking advantage of kayaking, rowing or other activities on the waterways.
The 4.5-acre lot between the Tonawanda Towers apartment building and a Walgreens drugstore was built atop foundations of urban renewal buildings, which are now heaving and buckling, said Mayor Rick Davis last year. He has called the area along the backside of Main Street "pretty shoddy" and said this will draw people into the city's downtown.
When the project was announced, some scoffed at the project – calling it a $1 million bathroom. Davis said those people were "short-sighted."
He said at that time that the entire parking lot needs to be resurfaced and repaved, which would have cost upwards of $1 million, but instead of bonding for a parking lot, the city decided to "get a little creative" and address one of the city's needs – a communal place for everyone to meet.
A portion of the project will include replacing a water line in an area known as Koenig's Alley. The Erie County Water Authority will pay for that work, at a cost of $234,000.
Other money for the project will come from the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund, which will provide $495,000; an additional $325,000 in federal Community Development Block Grand money; and $100,000 from the state Dormitory Authority. The council also awarded a contract for up to $134,000 for construction and inspection services to C&S Engineers.
City Engineer Jason J. LaMonaco met with the Common Council at its work session on Tuesday to explain the contract for the water line replacement, which was awarded to Milherst Construction of Clarence in September. He said the city will pay for the costs upfront and then be reimbursed by the Erie County Water Authority.
"There's an old 6-inch line and it's got a bad leak history and pretty bad pressure. Since we are going to be digging up the area we approached the Water Authority during the design phase," said LaMonaco.
LaMonaco said the intermodal hub will provide a public gathering space with lockers, covered bike storage and bike repair equipment, as well as restrooms in a building that resembles a turn-of-the-century train station.
"There's a lot of bikers who drive right through town and don't stop. We are hoping to provide an opportunity for bikers to stop, get off their bikes and patronize some of the businesses downtown," said LaMonaco.
LaMonaco said work on the project is expect to begin in the spring and be completed by early summer. A few buildings in the area will be subject to intermittent water shutdowns during the month when the water line is replaced. LaMonaco said those affected will be notified and the outages will be temporary and short-term, likely a few hours, as lines are connected.