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MASIELLO PUSHES DEVELOPMENT BEYOND BRIDGE

Buffalo's Peace Bridge "gateway" should stretch beyond any new bridge plaza and feature much of the city as an American portal, Mayor Masiello said last week.

Four major projects in the bridge area and a string of redevelopment efforts from Riverside to the Lackawanna city line must be integrated into plans for a new Niagara River crossing, he said.

The city also will push for development of a gateway "boulevard" that would take a landscaped and tree-lined Porter Avenue from Symphony Circle in the heart of the West Side past parks, college campuses and the bridge area "right in through LaSalle Park to the water's edge," Masiello added.

"Right now, a lot of the focus is on the bridge, but to me, the whole importance is the design of the plaza, the approaches to the bridge, the neighborhoods and how it all works together," Masiello said.

Masiello described the recent rejection by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership of SuperSpan plans for a bridge landing in LaSalle Park or the Porter Road-Lakeview housing area "a significant victory."

Masiello also said he supports Partnership plans for community design workshops as debate centers on Peace Bridge Authority plans for a "twin" structure or the new proposal for a single span suspended from a midriver pylon.

"The design of the bridge, as we go forward, is an important issue, and I think that is starting to be resolved," he said.

But the mayor added that any plans for a bridge or plaza have to blend with key city neighborhood, parks and economic development efforts.

Grouped by city planners as the "U.S.A. Gateway Projects," the efforts include:

The plaza-bridge area with its connecting roadways and its impact on adjoining neighborhoods;

Front Park which has its own still-unfunded master plan for restoration of a once-grand terrace, greenery, pathways, and gardens "that will blend in with the beautiful plaza we want for that bridge," Masiello said.

The "Hope VI" renovation of the nearby Lakeview Housing Project, a federally funded $28 million effort that this summer will start to replace or rehabilitate hundreds of homes to blend the lower-income housing into its West Side neighborhood.

The LaSalle Park Master Plan, estimated at $8 million but still unfunded, that will landscape the large park into an array of parkland, recreation and entertainment uses.

Developers also have expressed interest in the Niagara Street area just north of the Peace Bridge with hopes of turning that into an international trade corridor, Masiello said.

City officials are looking for funds to transform Porter Avenue into a tree-lined boulevard with other park-like details, a project the mayor said he would like to see completed within three to five years.

Key questions remain on bridge plaza effects on Front Park and its restoration plans, a major topic of the planned workshops, he added. But SuperSpan Upper Niagara proposals for a dramatic new bridge route and a landing in LaSalle Park or next to the Lakeview projects were opposed by the city, the mayor said.

"It would have destroyed a park right on the water's edge," Masiello added.

The full answer to capturing all the economic benefits from being a border city, Masiello suggested, lies beyond the $211 million bridge-expansion project.

The "Gateway Projects," boulevard proposal and a planned revitalization of Niagara Street stretch southward from the bridge area, along the route followed by most bridge traffic.

"So what you really come up with is a really beautiful gateway entering America from Buffalo," Masiello said.

But the entrance area and its immediate developments also are a gateway to other Buffalo projects. LaSalle Park links with Erie Basin Marina and its adjoining luxury housing complexes, intensely developed since the 1970s, and then to the funded $24 million Inner Harbor project scheduled to break ground next summer.

Beyond the harbor is the Marine Midland Arena; the Cobblestone District development area; sites proposed for relocating the convention center and zoo; and a future Outer Harbor project. Adjoining that is the ambitious South Buffalo Redevelopment Plan area -- more than 1,000 acres destined for transportation, industry, office and green space.

The area is key to capturing bridge commerce, Masiello said. About 70 percent of the 5,000 trucks crossing the span each day head south on the Niagara Thruway, and the city is seeking a new access road to a site in South Buffalo. There, trucks could link to railroad and shipping connections.

"It already has the infrastructure in place to capture these economic benefits," said Masiello, who is seeking state and industry aid for environmental cleanups.

"Most significantly, it will create new jobs -- jobs that feed off the synergy of the Peace Bridge plaza."

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