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Encouraging signs; Plans for development of Buffalo's waterfront give cause for optimism

There is no Bass Pro. And there is no big-box store to replace it. Whether it was a good idea in the past or not and this page at the time believed it was -- the fact is that something had to be done to fill the void.

The pendulum has now swung, as pendulums do, in the opposite direction. The question becomes whether the current thinking, dominated by preservationists and lay people, is the best direction. Care will be required, but early plans are at least encouraging. Things are looking up.

When the curtain came down on Bass Pro last year, the public push was for "lighter, quicker and cheaper." Leaders of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. faced a wrenching change of direction, but they have adjusted quickly and positively.

Indeed, to its great credit, the Harbor Development Corp. has stayed true to its word to invite the public to participate in formulating plans for a workable waterfront. The corporation partnered with a nonprofit known for revitalizing communities, and what emerged resembles doable plans within a reasonable framework.

As reported in The News, plans call for opening a cafe in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park, and a food stand along the wharf. Also in the works are restrooms, plus showers for boaters; extending the Central Wharf 400 feet southeast to Main Street; and just about tripling the number of events to 300. All fall under the heading of "a good start."

This more compact approach is common to the Project for Public Spaces and a first step. Decisions are being made by seven committees established in November by Jordan Levy, the agency's chairman. It all represents the type of short- and long-term waterfront plans that will be necessary in order to bring back this historic district and make it usable in the 21st century.

Levy, along with the agency president, Thomas P. Dee, deserve credit for being genuine in their effort to include the public and, moreover, those who disagreed with the previous approach. That takes real discipline and a willingness to set aside ego -- not an easy thing for anyone.

Now, many well-regarded individuals have signed on to help produce a new waterfront for Buffalo, and within a reasonable time frame. If plans are approved at the agency's April 12 board meeting, we should all be able to see signs of progress on the inner harbor by this summer.

So far, the lighter-quicker-cheaper approach is producing pleasant results. We wouldn't rule out further adjustments in course, though, and we hope all who are interested in this critical project will keep their minds open to what will work best for the remarkable resource of Buffalo's waterfront.

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