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Potential changes to marina across from Canalside explored

An Outer Harbor marina on Fuhrmann Boulevard, across from Canalside, looks cluttered and unappealing, but a state agency wants to change that, making it more accessible and public-friendly, while also retaining marina services.

A boat marina, launch locations and outdoor storage will remain, officials of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. said. But the layout of the site is expected to be redesigned with broader interests of the public also in mind.

Changes are expected to include a new entrance, a new dock for the Queen City Bike Ferry landing closer to Wilkeson Pointe, and accommodations for concessions, boat rentals and parking.

A marina restaurant, a boardwalk along the water, dry stack storage building, maintenance facility, mixed-use developments and, even the possible reuse of the Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator are being thrown into the mix to see what responses are received.

"We don't know if these things are going to happen, but we'd love to see them," said Tom Dee, president of the Harbor Development Corp. "We have listened to the public who have given us numerous options, and we'd like to vet those right now through a consultant."

Proposals for the redesign of the 15-acre site, under passage of the Green Code in 2017, are due Feb 15.

"The intent of this effort is to retain marina operations and boat slips while expanding the amount and types of activities and experiences available to Outer Harbor visitors," said Robert Gioia, chairman of the Harbor Development Corp.

Steve Ranalli, vice president of waterfront development, said the site's proximity to other planned improvements, recent upgrades to the property and a desire to open the space to the public makes this change a natural next development.

But at the same time, he said the marina services will remain an important part of that site.

"We're trying to take a private marina that's in a prime location and turn it into public space," Ranalli said.

"We want to maintain marina operations and the slips that are there," he said. "We're not looking to displace anyone. Slips along the Buffalo River are highly valuable, and we want to keep them there.

There's also a recognition that the site, which is a big part of the view from Canalside, could look better.

"Anyone who looks across the water scratches their head," Dee said, calling it "congested and ugly."

A possible timetable has the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board deciding on a master plan for the site toward the end of 2018. A design team would next develop plans for the site in 2019.

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