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City of Tonawanda lot to be turned into hub for bicyclists

A 4½-acre parking lot overlooking the Erie Canal in the City of Tonawanda will be turned into accommodations for bicyclists who will have access to several major trails nearby.

Construction is expected to begin in the coming months on a $950,000 project at the Koenig Alley parking area that officials hope can bring a jolt of economic rejuvenation for the city’s downtown area, officials said Tuesday.

The project will go out to bid later this month, and construction is expected to kick off in late spring or early summer at the site behind shops on Main Street and beside Tonawanda Towers.

Plans call for the creation of an acre of parkland and a small building – designed with the look of a turn-of-the-century train station – with restrooms, changing areas, a bicycle repair area, bike racks and vending machines. From above, the site will resemble a wheel with spokes.

“It will be a communal area that will green up and clean up a key section of our downtown,” Mayor Rick Davis said during a late-morning news conference.

The location is right for the project because it sits within a quarter mile of four bicycle trails and three “blueway,” or waterway, trails, the mayor said. It’s across the street from Gateway Harbor Park and close to kayak launches, boat slips and water bike rentals.

Before the demolition that came with urban renewal, the city-owned site had been home to a number of businesses. Since they met the wrecking ball decades ago, the land has been used for parking and the condition of the lot has deteriorated due to the remnants of the foundations of the demolished buildings.

Aside from what officials have dubbed the “transit hub” portion of the site, the rest of the parcel will still be used for parking.

The work will be done in phases, with the first being the green space and structure, followed by one or two more phases for the rest of the parking area.

Funding for the project has come from several sources: $425,000 allocated last month by the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee; $325,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money; $100,000 from the state Dormitory Authority; and $70,000 from the Greenway fund that was awarded last year for design and engineering work.

In the end, the city’s share will likely be about $100,000, Davis said.

Construction, which will pause during Canal Fest, is expected to be completed by the end of this year’s construction season.