By Robert Gioia
We are at a crucial point for defining what Buffalo’s outer harbor will and will not become in the future. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is extremely grateful for the ideas, opinions and questions that have been shared by many citizens and groups during this exciting public process.
That process was driven by public input and ECHDC’s guiding principles, which are to ensure that the outer harbor would be accessible year-round, full of a diversity of things to do and financially self-sustaining, to avoid the necessity of increasing the public’s tax burden to pay for such amenities.
On the whole, the draft plan for the outer harbor offers early implementation commitments and a comprehensive and ambitious long-term vision for an active, livable place with an emphasis on open space, waterfront access, wildlife protection, housing and cultural and recreational activities, with flexibility allowed for unforeseen conditions and opportunities (or shifts in preferences) in the future.
The planners are still reviewing the many expressions of community input and performing other technical and financial analyses related to development mix, land patterning and other design elements to create a final plan that will maintain some degree of flexibility both when it is presented and into the future.
The public preference for housing for multiple income levels that would maintain public access to the waterfront is reflected in the plan. This housing will be market-driven and will not be comparable to the exclusive housing that limits public access at the inner harbor.
This is an opportunity to position Buffalo to have a waterfront that will celebrate our unique location on Lake Erie. It is a chance to promote the natural environment, provide a waterfront destination for residents and tourists to visit and encourage limited commercial and residential investments that will benefit the community.
This moment in the City of Buffalo’s continuing recovery is a special window of opportunity that has not been open for generations. Let’s not miss it – let’s build a diverse, remarkable and sustainable waterfront together.
Robert Gioia is chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.