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New building planned for Canalside

Another new building is planned for Canalside.

A 14,000-square-foot rectangular building rising four to five stories is planned for the corner of Washington and Scott streets, across from HarborCenter’s new (716) Food and Sport. Plans call for a restaurant to occupy the first floor with offices and residences on the floors above.

The project is by Benderson Development, which redeveloped an eight-story building now shared by Courtyard Marriott and the Phillips Lytle law firm. The new East Canal fountain and public space, which is meant to be a continuation of the historically aligned Erie Canal pathway that opened for skating last week, would be in between the two buildings.

“We would certainly like to start work in 2015,” said Eric Recoon, vice president of development and leasing for Benderson Development. “We are working closely with our public sector partners – Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and the city – and share the common goal of maintaining the momentum of the Canal District, and ensuring that the snowball rolling down the hill continues to grow.”

The News has learned the restaurant being eyed is Hofbrauhaus, a small chain with a local operator that is a U.S. version of a Bavarian beer hall.

The project is subject to a design review by the Architectural Review Committee, set up by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to consider Canal District guidelines that were enacted in 2004 and amended in 2008.

Two hurdles must be overcome before it will be possible to put a shovel in the ground.

The more significant requires moving utilities that are underground, and could involve utility and phone companies, as well as the city’s sewer and water departments, at a cost of well over $1 million. Conversations are ongoing on how to do that, and how it will be paid for.

The city also owns about one-third of the land Benderson needs for the development. That land will need to be appraised, acquired by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., and then conveyed to Benderson, in accordance with an earlier agreement reached at the time Benderson acquired the building at One Canalside.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said he is hopeful that the project will happen.

“I was confident when we selected the Sabres to do the HarborCenter project that that would open up additional interest in developing things on the waterfront and in downtown Buffalo, and this is another great example of that,” the mayor said. “We have had very good discussions with Benderson and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., and this proposal by Benderson has great potential, the city is very interested in it and we are very hopeful that this project will move forward.”

Recoon said he believes there is a demand for more waterfront housing.

“We see the residential desire down there, and we think we could create something very special and unique. We know there is an expressed interest in having some residential in the Canalside District,” Recoon said.

The current plan involves 12 to 14 residential units per floor, with one- and two-bedroom apartments likely.

“It’s a pretty small footprint on that block, and it’s reduced by virtue of stairwells and an elevator shaft,” Recoon said.

The drawings – still conceptual at this stage – show a building made of brick and stone.

“The mindset is to create something that is timeless and also reflective of the history and heritage of the Canal District,” Recoon said.

An architect has yet to be chosen. Recoon said consideration will be given to Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst, the Orchard Park-based firm that developed Benderson’s One Canalside property and also is designing the Explore & More Children’s Museum and two other new buildings near the newly opened canalway and the Lloyd Street Bridge. The three buildings are also expected to begin construction in 2015.

The children’s museum will take up 40,000 square feet of the 80,000-square-foot, four-story building planned just east of the bridge. Retail, office space, residential and a hotel are all still possibilities in the rest of the building.

A three-story building with 5,000 square feet on each floor is planned on the other side of the bridge with restaurants on each level, with a nearby 5,000-square-foot comfort station and information booth.

Thomas Dee, the waterfront agency’s president, credited Canalside’s momentum for Benderson’s desire to move forward with the building at Washington and Scott streets.

“We really have become a four-season destination now, and this new development is going to happen because of all the previous success,” Dee said, referring to the large crowds of skaters at Ice at Canalside since the rink opened Thursday.

“Developers are paying attention to this unique space in Buffalo,” he said.