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Canal Harbor Development Corp. inaugurates a new Web site

The future of Buffalo's Erie Canal Harbor and planned $400 million Canal Side development is now just a mouse click away.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. has unveiled a new Web site aimed at giving the public increased information about the high-profile redevelopment effort. The address is www.eriecanalharbor.com.

"We want to make this project less mysterious and a lot more accessible to the public," said Jordan A. Levy, chairman of the harbor agency, which is overseeing transformation of the 20-acre project site. "We're at the point where there's going to be a lot going on, and we want to be as transparent as possible."

The Web site is full of maps, photos, historical information and copies of key documents that will govern the sweeping waterfront overhaul. Visitors can also sign up for an "e-bulletin" on progress and can leave feedback.

A live "Aud cam" will be featured on the site later this year when more visible progress is made on demolition of Memorial Auditorium.

The interactive site comes online as planners are poised to begin the critical state environmental quality review that will dictate exactly what will be built and where. The review includes plans for building out the remainder of the Erie Canal Harbor sites, as well as adjacent parcels where the Aud and the Donovan State Office Building currently stand, as well as the vacant Webster Block, which is now a parking lot in front of HSBC Arena.

Levy said the long-awaited project master plan, a document that will be the centerpiece of the environmental review, will be unveiled shortly.

"We're in pretty good shape now, so in less than 60 days we'll be in position to show the public what we want to do," Levy said.

Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of the announcement that an agreement had been reached among the state, Bass Pro Shops and Benderson Development Co. to re-energize the once-bustling Erie Canal terminus with a mix of retail, entertainment, hotel, office and residential space. At least one museum and increased public access to the waterfront are also key elements.

Since that announcement, the historic harbor itself, featuring the original Commercial Slip and a re-created Central Wharf, has opened for public use. And asbestos-abatement crews have worked to remove hazardous materials from the Aud and the Donovan Building, in preparation for their demolition.

The harbor board is scheduled to approve an Aud demolition contract today, and dismantling of the area should start before the end of the month.

Under the revised timetable, Bass Pro will debut by September 2010 at the earliest. Planners originally had projected an early-summer 2010 opening.

Bass Pro spokesman Larry Whitely said the delay does not impact the retailer's commitment to the Buffalo project.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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