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Architects side with Central Terminal for new train station

Twenty-five architects have signed a letter backing the Central Terminal as the site for a new Buffalo train station.

At a time when other cities go to great lengths to create a sense of "authenticity," Buffalo has the real thing with the Central Terminal and ought to capitalize on it, the architects said in their letter to the Buffalo train station site selection committee.

"The profound sense of possibility, the profound awe one experiences when emerging from the relatively narrow entryway into the main concourse for the first time is the same awe and sense of possibility the experience inspired 80 years ago, and is a deliberate product of choices the building's architects made standing at their drafting tables in the 1920's," the letter stated.

"That experience specifically, that building generally and the stories of the thousands of Buffalo families who have a relationship with that place could not be replicated for any sum. That place belongs to us as Buffalonians, and no one else."

Among the Western New York architects signing the letter were Robert Stark, Peter Flynn, Kevin Connors, Jake Schneider, Steven Carmina and Ann Dufchick.

Stark joined Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, at a Monday press conference to announce the architects' support for the art deco landmark.

Architect Robert Stark joined Rep. Brian Higgins in announcing a letter of support from 25 architects for a train station at Central Terminal.

"This is about a lot more than where to put a train platform," said Stark, president of the American Institute of Architects, New York State, and a partner with CJS Architects in Larkinville.

"All of these architects are professionals," said Higgins, a staunch supporter of the Central Terminal. "All have been leaders of historic preservation in Buffalo, and believe we should be doing the Central Terminal. Why are we even having this discussion?"

Higgins said reviving the train station would help revitalize that part of Buffalo's East Side by bringing new investment.

The Central Terminal would eventually be a more inviting environment for trains, he said.

"I think the Central Terminal within five years will be a very different place," Higgins said.

The main hall of the Central Terminal. (News file photo)

Higgins said the train station committee needs to show vision, rather than doing what he said was expedient.

"Every architectural landmark in Buffalo was almost overcome by small-mindedness. In the end, the better Buffalo responded," Higgins said. "This is one of those times. This decision has taken on issues beyond just siting a train station. It's really about small-minded thinking versus a larger vision."

Recent cost estimates put forward by an engineering consultant for the train station committee found returning passenger rail to the Central Terminal would cost significantly more than locating a station downtown.

But Higgins took exception to those numbers.

"I don't think those numbers are valid," he said.

"Wherever the new Amtrak station will go, it will have life of 50 to 75 years. Why in doing their cost analysis was that not taken into consideration, and the future private investment that will follow from the public investment? That's a very real and serious consideration," Higgins said.

"Why weren't the current operational and capital costs of the Depew Amtrak station taken into consideration? Because it all favors the Central Terminal, that's why. My assessment of this review is that it was not objective," he said.

"Someone is pushing the Canalside site for reasons I just don't understand, when we have a historic and architecturally significant place that once welcomed 200 passenger trains a day, and is now being undermined," he said.

Higgins also held out hope that bolstering high-speed rail will be part of President Trump's expected infrastructure plan. At the same time, he said the elimination of long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited, which runs west from Buffalo to Chicago, is unlikely to stand in Trump's budget blueprint.

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