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Waterkeeper, RiverWorks join forces for new riverfront entertainment complex

Buffalo RiverWorks and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper are taking Buffalo’s water renaissance party upriver.

RiverWorks' developer Earl Ketry, Waterkeeper’s Executive Director Jill Jedlicka and Amanda Mays, the regional director of Empire State Development, met at RiverWorks on a sultry Thursday afternoon and announced a collaborative multimillion-dollar waterfront access and entertainment project.

It will be built over the next year at the remediated Buffalo Color site at Riverbend.

“Our development section is what’s simply being called the ‘entertainment complex,’” Ketry said.

Ketry said the $6 million entertainment complex will be a multi-level, indoor/outdoor, garage-doored facility that will hold approximately 1,500 people for live concerts outdoors and 1,500 more indoors in addition to venues for weddings, parties and conventions. It will be financed through invested capital, Ketry said.

The project has a scheduled completion date of May 1, 2020.

“As teeming as it is down here,” Ketry said from the shores of the Buffalo River at RiverWorks, “it will be equally as busy upriver next year.”

Meanwhile, Waterkeeper plans to leverage some of the $10 million allocated to it to expand and enhance Buffalo’s Blueway through Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion II initiative for its end of the project. That investment is being made through Empire State Development.

“Empire State Development is thrilled to see our goals of equitable access to the region’s greatest asset: our waterfronts,” Mays said.

Waterkeeper envisions a hub for next generation of environmental stewards

Jedlicka said about $1.5 million to $2 million is expected to be leveraged to build walking paths, public access docks and make other natural improvements along the shoreline at the Riverbend site owned by the Heritage Discovery Center. Construction could start this fall.

“This former Brownfield site will come back to life as a new anchor location on the Buffalo Blueway,” Jedlicka said.

“One thing does not happen without the other,” Jedlicka said. “You can not have a thriving economy without a healthy environment.”

Jedlicka said the project will also be designed to tie in with points along the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway.

The site sits adjacent to the terminus of the Western New York Land Conservancy’s proposed 1.5-mile nature trail along the former DL&W elevated rail line between Canalside and Riverbend.

Although the projects aren’t linked, both organizations haven’t ruled out the possibility down the line.

“There’s an obvious potential we’re all aware of,” Jedlicka said. “We want to connect everything where the blue meets the green.”

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