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Design ideas sought for former Aud block at Canalside

The northern portion of the former Memorial Auditorium block – criticized last year by elected officials as a hole in the ground – could be closer to a development plan.

That hole, if Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state agency that works for him have their way, could one day teem with residences, offices, shops and restaurants.

On Monday, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. announced a request for proposals had been issued for design and construction administrative services to reintroduce the historic street pattern and add lighting, parking and other infrastructure to the 2-acre site.

Proposals are due to the waterfront agency by Jan. 17, 2019.

Cuomo announced in August that $10 million would be spent at Canalside to jump-start residential and commercial development.

The idea was to create a dense, mixed-use and walkable environment on the site that would help turn Canalside from a seasonal event space to a permanent downtown neighborhood.

“The North Aud block transformation supports ongoing efforts to evoke the site’s Erie Canal history and re-establish the area as a downtown neighborhood,” said Robert Gioia, the agency's chairman.

“The intent of this RFP is to complete the historic street grid and set the site for future development of the North Aud Block,” he said.

A request for proposals has gone out to begin planning the design and construction of infrastructure on the northern portion of the former Memorial Auditorium site.

Lloyd Street, Commercial Street and a small segment of Pearl Street will be recreated, with access primarily for pedestrian traffic. Programming, outdoor seating and special events are anticipated.

Building there has been a long-term goal laid out in a 2004 master plan drafted with public involvement.

"This is a commitment to restore as much of the original fabric of the neighborhood, and that's a word that's important to use here," Howard Zemsky, chairman of Empire State Development said at the time of Cuomo's announcement. "We are philosophically committed to preservation as a part of economic development."

The Aud block was acquired by the state agency 10 years ago.

Since then, the site was remediated for hazardous waste and lead- and asbestos-containing materials, Memorial Auditorium was demolished and utilities were relocated.

Construction of the historically-aligned canal was added in 2014. Ice skating and other ice-related activities occur there in the winter, with water-based recreation in the summer.

The southern portion of the Aud site is being redeveloped. The Explore & More — Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children's Museum will open in spring 2019. Heritage Point, a mixed-use project, is expected to break ground later in the year. Benderson Development, which owns property at the corner of Washington and Scott streets, is expected to announce building plans in the spring.

In early 2017, Rep. Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan criticized the northern portion of the Aud block for being an undeveloped hole in the ground.

Benderson may unveil new Canalside plans in spring

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