The Skyway corridor competition was whittled down from 16 submissions to nine on Monday, with the winner to be announced Tuesday morning by a selection jury.
The selection of finalists in the state's "Aim for the Sky" competition gives little indication of which way the judges will go when they announce the first-, second- and third-place winners. Of the nine proposals, three call for removing the mile-long Skyway, one eliminates the downtown section, two call for phasing it out and three call for keeping it as it is.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the finalists Monday at Resurgence Brewery's Chicago Street location.
Six of the proposals call for a lift bridge between the Inner Harbor and Outer Harbor. Several envision new residential and other development.
Among the proposals rejected: "Buffalo Skybeach," which called for transforming the Skyway into a glass-enclosed tropical destination with beaches, tropical plants, recreation and cafes.
"These finalist teams represent the best ideas for the Buffalo Skyway corridor," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "As Buffalo continues its forward momentum, these ideas draw inspiration from the community's unique waterfront landscape and builds upon recent investments.
"I look forward to hearing how a new vision for the corridor could transform this corridor and city," Cuomo said.
Of the nine contestants, whose identities had been kept secret until Monday, four are from New York State. Those submissions are from Buffalo, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse. The others are from Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif.
More than 100 proposals were submitted after Cuomo announced the contest on May 13. Contestants were asked to reimagine the full 4-mile Skyway corridor along Route 5, covering 75 acres of state-owned land from the Buffalo River to Ridge Road in Lackawanna.
As an added incentive, the competition will award $100,000 to the first-place winner. Second- and third-place winners will receive $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.
The selection jury features prominent thinkers in urban planning, including Calvin Gladney, president and CEO of Smart Growth America; Jennifer Vey, director of the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking; Ethan Kent, senior vice president of Project for Public Spaces; and Lynn Richards, president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism.
"When you think about the Skyway, a decision that was made 65 years ago impacts us today," said Howard Zemsky, chairman of Empire State Development and the "Aim for the Sky" selection committee, shortly before the finalists were announced.
"Whatever we ultimately do decide, it will have an impact 65 years from now," he said.
The finalists are:
- "Skyway 2.0" by Terry Madden, Team Ramboll, Syracuse: The Skyway remains in this proposal but eventually allows either bus rapid transit or light rail transit. A series of pedestrian bridges would be built between the Inner Harbor and Outer Harbor, with gradual, complementary development of the area.
- "The Skyway River Loop" by Marvel Architects, New York City:
The Skyway is retained while calling for a new bridge connection between the Inner Harbor and Outer Harbor at Michigan Avenue by the General Mills plant. The plan also envisions street-level green space and better access to nearby neighborhoods and development.
- "The City of Lights: Re-view our Waterfront" by SWBR/Fisher Associates/MRB Group, Rochester:
The Skyway and access ramps are removed from Church Street to Prime Street, making 12 acres available for development in downtown and Canalside. A piece of the Skyway bridge would be repurposed as “SkyPark,” providing scenic views and recreational amenities. Traffic would be rerouted, including a “Tifft Street Extension” road connecting to the I-190. A lift bridge would be built at Michigan Avenue, and there would be a road connection between Ohio Street and Fuhrmann Boulevard.
- "Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge" by Christian Calleri, Jeannine Muller, Min Soo Kang and Andrea De Carlo, Washington, D.C.:
This proposal removes the Skyway, putting into motion mixed-use and residential development along the corridor. Multi-modal access, including bus rapid transit, is envisioned by retrofitting Fuhrmann Boulevard and Ohio Street. A new lift bridge would extend from the foot of Main Street to the Outer Harbor. The Skyway's concrete piers are reused to accommodate solar and wind power production.
- "Highways to Parkways" by Ryan Kucinski and Steinberg Hart, Los Angeles:
A long-term phased approach leads to the Skyway's removal and its conversion into an Olmsted-like parkway. The corridor is redeveloped into mixed-use neighborhoods incorporated with public open space. A similar conversion of a downtown segment of the Niagara Thruway is also proposed, along with light rail transit extensions to the Southtowns and Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
- "Olmsted Parkway" by Andrew Vesselinovitch, Lake Erie for All Team, Chicago:
This proposal calls for replacing the Skyway with an Olmsted-like parkway, inspired by Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of connecting his earlier parks to the north. The Outer Harbor would feature a new Olmsted Park, with land previously occupied or made less visible by the Skyway used for real estate development, a “Ship Canal Promenade” and a Buffalo Sculpture Park. A new lift bridge would connect the Inner Harbor and Outer Harbor, and a number of interchanges along the Niagara Thruway would be removed or simplified to address traffic. A new light rail extension to the Outer Harbor is also envisioned.
- "The Sapphire Necklace" by Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists, with Clark Patterson Lee, Pasadena, Calif.:
The Skyway would be removed and replaced by a "grand boulevard" along Ohio Street, allowing the corridor to offer new housing, entertainment and recreation venues. A new lift bridge is called for at Michigan Avenue to the Outer Harbor, with multi-modal access on all local streets in the corridor, including a possible light rail extension on Ohio Street.
- "Vision for Skyway Corridor and Relocated NY Route 5 Highway" by Raymond C. Vaughan and Anthony James, Buffalo:
The Skyway remains standing and would be adapted to fit long-term purposes determined by a public decision-making process. Traffic as far south as the Union Ship Canal would be diverted onto a new highway, with Fuhrmann Boulevard reduced to one traffic lane in each direction.
- "Buffalo Up!" by CLNW and Wendy Wang, Boston:
The Skyway is phased out under this plan with a "sustainable transport system" that applies advanced transport strategies to existing routes to increase efficiency. The Skyway would incorporate bicycle and pedestrian access as other road, bridge and transit alternatives are developed. Ultimately, the Skyway would be removed at the end of its useful life.