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PEACE BRIDGE FACTIONS BEGINNING TALKS WITH SWISS ARCHITECT

Swiss architect Christian Menn was to begin meeting today with those who fought over the Peace Bridge.

For the next three days, the world-renowned bridge designer can expect to hear what those who live in the Buffalo Niagara region have heard for three years during the civic crisis.

Some advice will be conflicting.

Most will be impassioned.

After looking at the bridge, Menn was to meet with Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, Common Council President James W. Pitts and members of the New Millennium Group.

Pitts said he wants to impress upon Menn the passion and zeal of those who became advocates for a signature bridge.

"If he is the one who'll be the principal dream-maker, he has to realize the heaviness of that responsibility," Pitts said.

Masiello said he would call upon Menn to help turn the border crossing into a "great gateway."

"What I want him to walk away with is the need to move this beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary," Masiello said.

Others who will meet Menn have concerns, too.

Luiz F. Kahl, a Peace Bridge Authority board member, said capacity must be expanded at the crossing between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont.

"Everything is up for consideration, but in my opinion, we cannot forget the fact if we don't move as fast as we can, we'll lose commerce between these two countries, and that'll be a detriment to Western New York," Kahl said.

Kahl said he's familiar with Menn's work in Boston, where his cable-stayed structure across the Charles River resolved a public controversy.

"I think my message to him will be, 'We're looking to you to build a bridge that's functional and attractive and a landmark for this area, as you have done in Boston, keeping in mind the bridge will be running out of capacity soon,' " Kahl said.

Those who will meet Menn said they hold high expectations for his involvement.

But he will not single-handedly resolve the controversy, said Bill Banas, chairman of the New Millennium Group's Peace Bridge Action Group.

"I'm not looking at him as a white knight," Banas said. "I think we have to figure this out for ourselves."

Banas said he plans to stress the importance of public involvement.

"We want something here that's worthy of our aspirations as a community," he said.

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