West Side residents and neighbors of SUNY Buffalo State will get their first look Monday at three proposed concepts for the redevelopment of the city-owned former auto impound lot on Dart Street, designed to connect it to the adjacent campus and community while enhancing both the appearance and experience of the college.
College officials will unveil the proposals by three developers at a virtual public exhibition to be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Interested parties must register online to be notified of the event details. The event will also be livestreamed.
The forum – which will be moderated by University at Buffalo professor Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning – will feature presentations by the firms, who will describe their visions for redeveloping the site at 166-170 Dart, as well as the surrounding area.
The program will also include a live online question-and-answer session and breakout sessions for each development team in its own virtual video conferencing "room."
The session will be recorded and available for view and comment both online and via a public computer at the Elaine M. Panty Branch Library at 820 Tonawanda St. in Buffalo. Questions and comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Shibley and his team will use the feedback to write a summary and final report that will help school officials as they move forward with reviewing the proposals and selecting their preferred choice, said Laura Barnum, Buffalo State's vice president for finance and management.
The forum marks the official relaunch of the Dart Street redevelopment project, which has been underway since early 2019 but was suspended in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Buffalo State – which has been interested in the Dart Street property for more than 10 years because of its proximity to campus – partnered with the city in February 2019 and was approved two months later as the designated developer for the site, through its BSCR Corp., an affiliate of the Buffalo State College Foundation. The school wants to help determine what happens with the neighboring property while potentially meeting its own needs and benefiting the surrounding community.
In a statement, Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner called the proposal "an opportunity to provide a public space that will energize the West Side and provide a lasting benefit to our great city."
Under the agreement with the city, the school is responsible for developing a plan for the parcel that would be presented to the Common Council for approval. Buffalo State told developers and the community that it did not have a specific use for the site in mind, and did not dictate any parameters. There is also no guarantee that Buff State will even own or have a stake in the property or any final project, as the parcel is ultimately to be sold to the chosen developer.
But the school did express a broad vision that any plan must:
• Support its strategic plan and "facilities master plan" by "seamlessly connecting to the existing campus footprint," while enhancing the college experience for students
• Embrace the community and support West Side revitalization, in keeping with Buff State's commitment to the community as "an anchor institution for the city of Buffalo"
• Factor in waterfront access, greenspace and "other sustainable solutions" without harming water quality or the ecology of Scajaquada Creek
• Improve the appearance of the campus and neighborhood, particularly for those traveling along the Scajaquada Expressway
• Find ways to finance and complete the project while considering the future costs and impacts to the school
Since the shutdown, campus officials have continued to communicate with both campus and community stakeholders, including the Black Rock Riverside Alliance, to solicit comments and suggestions, while also working with the developer teams. Officials were eager to restart the process, but needed to determine a safe way to proceed, and then decided to wait until September when school was back in session.