It’s a rebirth that has long seemed unlikely, but finally – after many delays – the DL&W train shed adjacent to Canalside is approaching reuse, a reuse that will include a new NFTA Metro Rail station.
One of the first steps is a new entrance that will allow easy pedestrian access to both floors of the structure. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority wants to build a glass-and-metal stair and elevator tower to provide this access and it needs an easement that will encompass part of South Park Avenue. Buffalo’s Common Council and the city’s Planning Board, both of whose review and approval will be required, should look favorably upon this request.
Like other intriguing structures along the Buffalo waterfront, the DL&W has been more of a curiosity than anything else. Its contemporary purpose has long been only vaguely known and its history mainly fodder for train buffs and admirers of railway architecture.
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Though the magnificent brownstone terminal once connected to the train shed was demolished in 1979, the 1917 Lincoln Bush-designed double-decker shed is distinctive in its own right, with its reinforced concrete columns, Flemish bond brick exterior and skylights. The design of the complex, patented by Bush in 1904, is yet another example – like the now-demolished Great Northern grain elevator – of early engineering innovations in Buffalo. The structure is eligible for landmarking and historic tax credits.
One of the reasons the DL&W has seemed so mysterious is that it is largely inaccessible. Its ground floor serves as a storage and maintenance facility for light rail rapid transit cars and the second floor has been vacant and unused for more than 60 years.
The NFTA and developer Sam Savarino plan to change all that. Much of the work to convert the ground floor to a Canalside Metro station has been done, with the help of $37 million in state and local funds. The NFTA and Savarino have received an additional $30 million to convert the second floor to a concert space and public market, with artist studios and food stalls. The concert venue will fill a gap left by the departure of Thursday at the Square and the Canalside concerts. As with those well-attended series, the summer concerts will be held outside, on the DL&W’s 40,000-square-foot outdoor deck, which overlooks the Buffalo River and should accommodate about 5,000 attendees. In winter, live music can move inside, where Savarino is leasing an additional 80,000 square feet of second-floor space.
With this kind of traffic expected, it’s easy to see why a new entrance structure is needed. Given the popularity of Canalside in all seasons, it’s a good bet that when this entertainment and transportation hub is finished, people will come.
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