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Preservation group starts battle to strike Bass Pro from harbor plan

Preservationists are gearing up for another fight over Buffalo's historic Erie Canal Harbor.

A local preservation group on Sunday embarked on a "Campaign to Save the Canal District" by rallying opposition against the Canal Side development plan for the inner harbor, which would use a Bass Pro superstore as its retail anchor.

"It's a horror," said Timothy Tielman, executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture.

"The development is sheer suburban-mall development," Tielman said, "and that is certainly inappropriate for a district that is supposed to be history-based."

More than 100 people gathered inside The Church on Delaware Avenue and Tupper Street Sunday afternoon for the informational meeting, where Tielman talked about the history of the site and the previous battle waged by preservationists.

After public protests and a federal lawsuit, he said, a consensus was reached three years ago on a history-based master plan for the Erie Canal Harbor that would bring back original streetscapes and balance development with public access to the waterfront.

Now, preservationists are deciding their next move in an effort to derail the period-style, 100,000-square-foot Bass Pro store -- flanked by a public plaza, marketplace and parking ramp -- that is proposed for the former Central Wharf site along the Buffalo River.

"This would absolutely destroy the cultural landscape we worked so hard to preserve," Tielman said.

It's annoying to have spent so much time on a master plan only to have to fight all over again, said Lynda Schneekloth, board president of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, a citizens organization dedicated to reclaiming area waterways.

"We will win again," Schneekloth said. "We firmly believe the original plan is the one that should be implemented."

Attorneys opposed to the Bass Pro plan are looking into the matter, Tielman said.

Meanwhile, Tielman encouraged people at the meeting to write their elected leaders, including Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Byron Brown and Common Council President David Franczyk.

"We've got to have people make their displeasure known publicly," Tielman said.

Tielman said there will be another meeting on May 9 to develop a strategy on how to proceed with their campaign.

"This is the first meeting we're doing to get the word out," Tielman said, "and there'll be many more."

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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