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Benderson may unveil new Canalside plans in spring

Benderson Development Co. hopes to release more details in a few months about its plans for a parcel of Canalside at the corner of Washington and Scott streets, now that the utilities underneath the paved lot are being relocated as part of a larger project nearby.

The Sarasota, Fla.-based developer, whose roots are in Buffalo, has been planning to erect a multistory, mixed-use building at the northwest corner of the intersection.

That's on the south side of a terraced public plaza and seating area, opposite the former Donovan State Office Building that Benderson previously converted into One Canalside, with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and the headquarters of law firm Phillips Lytle. It's also across Scott from HarborCenter and across Washington from The Buffalo News.

Specifics have been vague, but the four- or five-story building is expected to include retail space on the ground floor – possibly one or more restaurants – with potentially some office space and apartments or condominiums above. Officials have said construction would likely last 12 to 18 months, with an opening anticipated in 2020.

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But progress on those plans – let alone confirmation of the latest details – has been delayed for years because of the difficulty of relocating underground electrical, water, gas and phone connections that would otherwise interfere with construction.

That work – whose cost was previously estimated by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. at about $1.8 million – is now finally happening, as part of the city's nearby Cars Sharing Main Street project, said Benderson Vice President Eric Recoon.

Crews are already doing similar work on the block, in order to move the utilities out of the way before starting reconstruction on Main, so that cars can once again drive on the street alongside the Metro Rail trains. That's overlapping with the work Benderson needs, Recoon added.

In the meantime, Recoon said there's "nothing new to report" on the developer's plans, but "I would think by next spring we should be ready to go public."

An initial Benderson concept four years ago had called for a 6,000-square-foot restaurant along Washington Street, which at one point was being eyed by Kevin Townsell for his Hofbrauhaus restaurant and beer garden. That proposal also included another 7,380 square feet of retail along Main, 13,000 square feet of office space on the second floor, and 45 apartments on three floors above that.

But the delays caused Townsell to look elsewhere, and Hofbrauhaus is now slated to open in November in the former Upstate Milk Cooperative building at 190 Scott St. in the Cobblestone District.

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