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Editorial: Already a popular spot, Canalside is preparing for a big step forward

How many people can remember when the place we call Canalside was waste ground dominated by the hulk of Memorial Auditorium?

Now thousands upon thousands of people make their way there, swaying to the tunes of their favorite band, thumbing through craft offerings at a popup stand, strolling over to the ice cream hut and hopping aboard a water taxi, tour boat or watercraft. Add to that the reconstructed canals with skating in the winter and paddle boating in the summer.

This is still a fairly new destination, but one that has become a magnet for new activities and new ideas. And, as News reporter Mark Sommer recently outlined, even more is yet to come, possibly by the summer of 2018.

It starts with the installation of a restored 1924 carousel – to be located where the summer concert stage sits, a short distance from Clinton’s Dish. Once the carousel is in place, the summer concerts will be relocated to a permanent performance stage on the Central Wharf.

And as Sommer’s article explained, as the backdrop of the stage there will be a façade depicting the 19th century Union Steamboat Company. And facing that will be a pavilion, a ghosted structure “meant to recall another 1850s-era canal-district building.” In that pavilion, visitors will find shade, activities and entertainment.

If all that wasn’t enough, the much-anticipated Explore & More Children’s Museum is expected to open in 2018.
Along with those two attractions, planning is underway on some important upgrades: permanent bathroom facilities, a police substation to augment the private security detail and a visitor information center with answers to questions about what there is to see and do.

Improvements are also underway at the Outer Harbor, where boaters will appreciate the new docks that are being installed at Safe Harbor Marina. All of the permanent, free-floating docks are expected to be in place just in time for the 2017 season at the former Small Boat Harbor.

The Canalside we see now has been years in the making, jump-started by millions of dollars in New York Power Authority money wrested for taxpayers by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. The City of Buffalo and Mayor Byron W. Brown have also had major input on the new uses for the site, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been a consistent contributor of money and political will. Many others added their voices to the fight to focus on the area’s heritage, rather than allowing a big-box store to bury that history.

Canalside is already a powerhouse of history and activity, and the best is yet to come.

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