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Architect picked to move Canalside projects forward

A Buffalo architectural firm has been selected to work on new Canalside features, including two open-air pavilions meant to evoke 18th-century buildings, a recreated historic facade for use as a stage backdrop and public restrooms.

A selection committee on Monday picked HHL Architects from among 10 proposals sent to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

HHL will provide architectural and engineering design services for the project. The firm has helped restore and rehabilitate historic sites in Buffalo, including the Darwin Martin House Complex, the Market Arcade, the Buffalo Club as well as the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora.

HHL will work with eight sub-consultants, including Perkins Eastman, formerly Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, the master architect for Canalside since 2008.

New York Power Authority funds will pay for the $1.3 million contract.

Construction would begin in 2018 and mostly end in 2019.

"HHL is one of the most respected architectural firms, particularly as it applies to historic preservation," said Sam Hoyt, an Erie Canal Harbor board member. "The work HHL has done on major buildings of architectural and historic significance in Western New York is exceptional, and I think in this case we are hiring the very best."

"Having direct experience with those projects – great projects that are sensitive to the history, with great results – I concur," board member Mike Di Virgilio said.

"I only wish Ted Lownie were here to enjoy it," Chairman Robert Gioia said of the firm's co-founder, who died Jan. 17.

The Commercial Slip pavilion is intended to be a new structure that evokes the 1870s building that once existed there. It would be on the southwest corner of Prime and Lloyd streets. It's currently imagined as a "ghosted" structure that allows for seasonal programming activities and possibly semi-permanent exhibits.

The Union Steamboat facade's east side will serve as the concert stage backdrop. Plans call for the stage to move from its current spot at Canalside to a new site near the Central Wharf.

Plans also call for a visitor station, with bathrooms and Buffalo Police substation. These projects are planned to be completed by May 1, 2019.

In addition, a second pavilion meant to recall the Union Block, which housed Dug's Dive, would be completed by May 1, 2020.

Tom Dee, the waterfront agency's president, said changes in the final design of each project remained a possibility.

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