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Buffalo's plans for LaSalle Park and the nearby Lakeview Homes apartments will transform an area near the Peace Bridge that's roughly the size of the Mall in Washington, city officials said Monday.

Those planning to replace or supplement the aging Peace Bridge need to understand the city's present plans in the area, according to Mayor Masiello.

If plans hold true, the Niagara Thruway will enter downtown from the north through a corridor of parklands that will stretch south on both sides of the expressway from Porter Avenue, officials said.

During a briefing in his office, Masiello outlined city goals for the area adjacent to the Peace Bridge. They include building a buffer park in much of what is now Lakeview Homes and renewing LaSalle Park to open expansive new recreation areas.

"Often the rhetoric has centered around the bridge itself, and that's important . . . we want to do it right, because we won't do it again," Masiello told editors of The Buffalo News.

However, Masiello said bridge planners need to expand their view to the entire West Side, where their work will affect two major parks, some of the city's poorest housing and an international gateway to the city that needs renewal.

"We're really building a whole community . . . a whole new neighborhood," he said.

Some $28 million have already been set aside for many of the plans at Lakeview, but officials said they have yet to determine how to raise the money for park improvements. Plans include:

Razing half of the existing Lakeview Homes units -- including all of the row houses alongside the Thruway -- to make way for a buffer park and 83 new single-family homes, some of which may be sold to private owners.

Acquiring and rehabilitating 100 buildings in the immediate Lakeview neighborhood in order to stabilize the lower West Side.

Developing senior citizen housing in an unused park area near Hudson Street and a new parkway along Porter Avenue to Kleinhans Circle.

Redesigning LaSalle Park roadways and existing spaces to include new passive and active recreation uses. The present amphitheater would be landscaped to allow for revenue-raising events, and a new garden area would be built at the south end of the park. A new waterfront deck and a pier would also be built.

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