Water­front be­he­moth

The daunt­ing price tag for Ter­mi­nal A means re­use will re­quire big think­ing

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS -

How do you eat an ele­phant? That pop­u­lar ques­tion is apro­pos when talk­ing about what to do with Port Ter­mi­nal A, the long-va­cant be­he­moth sit­ting on 50 acres of prime Buf­falo Outer Har­bor prop­erty.

The an­swer for both seems sim­ple: one bite at a time. In the case of Ter­mi­nal A, how­ever, the first bite is turn­ing out to be quite ex­pen­sive.

The Erie Canal Har­bor De­vel­op­ment Corp. is try­ing to digest the num­bers in a re­port from Trow­bridge Wolf Michaels Land­scape Ar­chi­tects.

Port Ter­mi­nal A of­fers plenty of space – per­haps too much. Its ap­prox­i­mately 600,000 square feet of space, nearly 10 times the space in­side the main ex­hibit hall at the Buf­falo Ni­a­gara Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, may be more than most com­pa­nies want to tackle.

Neigh­bor­ing Ter­mi­nal B is much smaller – 97,148 square feet – and less trou­ble to re­pur­pose since it has fewer en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards. It would cost a com­par­a­tively pid­dling $274,000 to re­pair the roof, elec­tri­cal and water sys­tems and in­stall a new fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem. Its larger coun­ter­part re­quires far more at­ten­tion and dol­lars.

The study’s costly op­tions are enough to make a comptroller blanche.

Re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the build­ing, in­clud­ing a new roof and clear­ing all of the con­tam­i­nants: $17.5 mil­lion.

Tear­ing it down: $13.7 mil­lion. The as­bestos-con­tam­i­nated roof would con­sume $4 mil­lion of that.

Moth­balling the build­ing so the tough de­ci­sions can be kicked down the road: $3.1 mil­lion.

Mak­ing one-third of the build­ing code-com­pli­ant for stor­age rentals: $1.9 mil­lion. That price tag may be cheap, but it’s hardly the best use of such a prime piece of land.

Do­ing noth­ing and let­ting a rot­ting build­ing blight a water­front on the rise is not a vi­able op­tion. Erie Canal Har­bor board mem­ber Sam Hoyt rec­og­nizes that, and says the agency now must fig­ure out its next step, and de­velop a time frame.

There are ideas out there. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buf­falo, sug­gests us­ing the Navy Pier in Chicago or Fells Point in Bal­ti­more as ex­am­ples of re­de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. An in­door water park has been sug­gested.

As News staff re­porter Mark Som­mer wrote, a plan in 2014 call­ing for three clus­ters of hous­ing of 1,500 to 2,100 units each, along with cul­tural zones and other ameni­ties, met with such fierce re­sis­tance that the agency dropped its pro­posal. The city’s new Green Code zon­ing or­di­nance al­lows de­vel­op­ment on the 50-acre par­cel where Ter­mi­nals A and B sit, and on a smaller site by the Buf­falo River, near Times Beach Na­ture Pre­serve and Wilke­son Pointe. Water­front of­fi­cials said there are no plans to de­velop the river­front par­cel, but they want to start de­vel­op­ing the 50-acre site.

Two ma­jor ob­sta­cles to de­vel­op­ment are money and his­toric preser­va­tion. Preser­va­tion Buf­falo Ni­a­gara does not want to see the build­ing, where Ford cars were once built, de­stroyed.

That all makes it harder to de­ter­mine the best path for­ward. Tear­ing down the build­ing to clear the way for new construction would be un­ac­cept­able to preser­va­tion­ists. And, as Assem­bly­man Sean Ryan pointed out, the push for de­vel­op­ment has cen­tered on re­use. The spirit of “lighter, cheaper, quicker,” he said, would likely pre­clude ma­jor new construction.

Con­vert­ing the build­ing to hous­ing won’t be easy be­cause too much of the space is far from ex­te­rior walls.

Hoyt says the agency will share the re­port with de­vel­op­ers in the near fu­ture, hop­ing for ideas.

Here’s one to con­sider: Ama­zon. The in­ter­net giant is look­ing for a place for a sec­ond head­quar­ters com­plex, so why not of­fer Ama­zon the whole site. All that space comes with beau­ti­ful sun­sets over Lake Erie as a bonus.

If that doesn’t pan out, there’s al­ways the ele­phant model – de­velop the site in stages as money and ideas fall into place.

Their lit­tle sis­ter would en­joy look­ing at the craft items and doll fur­ni­ture. She also knew that she would be bring­ing some­thing home. Spend­ing time at the hobby shop was a whole fam­ily event.

Af­ter read­ing the ar­ti­cle, the boys re­al­ized the hobby shop would be opened the fol­low­ing Satur­day. It would be one last day to rem­i­nisce, pur­chase cars and race their cars on the track. The plan was made!

On Satur­day morn­ing, the grand­chil­dren would come to my house for break­fast, then Papa would drive them to the hobby shop at 9 a.m. I made them pan­cakes with maple syrup and whipped cream.

The boys had their money and knew what cars they wanted to buy. They were full of an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment dur­ing the 20-minute drive.

Upon ar­rival there al­ready was a line. The boys knew where the cars they wanted would be. Alas, even at that early hour, there was only one left! And that Indy car be­came their prized pos­ses­sion.

Derek Gee/Buf­falo News

Re­hab­bing Ter­mi­nal A will cost much more than the Erie Canal Har­bor De­vel­op­ment Corp. en­vi­sioned.

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