Several projects to make the Outer Harbor more user-friendly moved forward Monday.
The projects include a bike park with mountain-bike trails, events lawn, multi-use trails and three habitat restoration areas for the southern end of the Outer Harbor. The projects are expected to be completed in May 2019.
Additional steps were taken to start improvements on 20 acres at the southern end of the Outer Harbor, and the 140 acres immediately to the north.
"These are real tangible things that are happening on the Outer Harbor," said Steven Ranalli, waterfront development vice president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., whose board of directors approved the projects. "Monday's meeting set in motion planning, design and construction for the next two to five years."
The cost of the four contracts approved Monday totals just over $7 million. The money will come from the $15 million set aside from Buffalo Billion II funds along with $5 million from the state's first Buffalo Billion economic initiative.
Construction is expected to be completed for these projects by 2020.
Architectural and design work will start for restoring habitat, enhancing open space, restoring and making Michigan Pier accessible, cleaning up polluted areas and putting up signage and refreshment stations.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who was critical several years ago of plans to build condominiums and other large structures on the Outer Harbor, likes how Outer Harbor plans are now shaping up.
"The announced plan reflects what the public has been asking for all along -- more opportunities to access the waterfront to get to the water's edge, hike, fish and ride a bike," Ryan said. "I'm pleased Erie Canal Harbor Development is responding to the public's demand for access to the water, walking and bike trails and more natural areas."
A contract to plan for the transfer of the 15-acre First Buffalo River Marina from private to public ownership also was approved by the state waterfront agency. The site has several boat launch locations and 300 outdoor storage spaces.
With the marina publicly owned, the Queen City Bike Ferry could move from it's current route between the Central Wharf and Times Beach to one that extends from the DL&W Terminal to the marina, by the Connecting Terminal.
Options for the future of Terminal B, the smaller of two former Port of Buffalo industrial buildings that have sat vacant for years, will be pursued through a contract for architectural and design services.
Ranalli said the state waterfront agency plans to get stakeholder and public feedback over the next six to nine months on what to do with both First Buffalo Marina and Terminal B, before moving into design and construction if deemed necessary.
"We expect First Buffalo Marina to be much more in the vein of the Buffalo Harbor State Park model, or Erie Basin Marina," Ranalli said. "With Terminal B, we're really open to any and all ideas. We are going to study options from demolition to partial reuse or the full rehabilitation of the building."
The consultant is expected to present three design possibilities for Terminal B and to conduct a market study to explore potential tenant interest.
The events lawn at the southern end of the Outer Harbor is near parking and other infrastructure, and is being considered for festivals, larger concerts and 5K races, Ranalli said.
No permanent staging or other facilities are planned as of now, he said.
Additional improvements on the Outer Harbor also will also be considered.
"We will continue to think through the 140 acres and have a plan for all of it," Ranalli said.
Environmental mitigation measures to be taken are expected to involve a soil cap and/or fencing for areas contaminated with leftover industrial waste.