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Development plans for waterfront discussed

A realignment of Two Mile Creek Road and the construction of additional roads are among recommendations for revitalizing the Town of Tonawanda's waterfront.

Several dozen people who attended a meeting Thursday night in the Noco Pavilion on Ensminger Road heard those suggestions for the proposed Tonawanda Brownfield Opportunity Area, and offered input on a separate, but related, effort to update the waterfront land use plan.

With the town observing its 175th anniversary this year, Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana noted that all of the land in question once was pristine farmland.

"What we are trying to do now is figure out how to reclaim it," he said.

Two Mile Creek Road is the northern boundary for both efforts.

The brownfield opportunity area extends to 4000 River Road and encompasses 202 parcels totaling 1,743 acres. Market and land use analyses, as well as a master plan, were developed under a $60,000 grant the town received from the state Department of State.

The grant funded the first of a three-step program to clean up and revitalize vacant, abandoned, underutilized and environmentally contaminated properties in the town's industrial core.

Market analysis indicates the development of professional offices, light industrial and accommodation/food-related projects is the way to go, said Edward M. Flynn, a senior planner with LaBella Associates, the town's consultant. Large retail development, such as a big-box store, isn't recommended.

Flynn noted that the area is lacking in roads and sidewalks.

"Probably the major recommendation of the [master] plan is to start [to develop] a road network," Flynn said.

Another significant recommendation is to realign Two Mile Creek Road, he said, straightening it out and creating a boulevard into a new development area. The existing road bed could become a multiuse trail, Flynn added.

"We have landlocked parcels now," explained town engineer James B. Jones. "By moving Two Mile Creek [Road] over into the Town of Tonawanda, it opens up that 200-foot strip."

The step-two grant application is due in the spring. Those monies would be used to further analyze and prioritize sites according to their potential.

Cleanup and redevelopment would follow in phase three.

Meanwhile, work has begun on updating the town's 2002 waterfront land use plan, which covers an approximately six-mile area from Two Mile Creek Road to Vulcan Street. Infrastructure, industry and brownfields, and parks and trails are part of the picture.

Audience members were given hand-held electronic devices to register their opinions to various questions about the waterfront. Approximately three dozen people participated.

Based on the number of votes cast, the waterfront's greatest strength and the greatest opportunity for improvement is waterfront access.

Environmental conditions and concerns was the top answer to a question about the area's biggest challenge, and reusing abandoned properties was the top response to a question about the most important issue the plan must address.


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