Con­ser­vancy, group reach un­der­stand­ing on plan for Nick­laus-de­signed golf cour­ses

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Som­mer

The Buf­falo Olm­sted Parks Con­ser­vancy and civic ad­vo­cate Kevin Gaughan have reached a “frame­work of co­op­er­a­tion” on his plan for a Jack Nick­laus-de­signed golf course ad­ja­cent to South Park and a re­fur­bished course at Delaware Park.

The non­bind­ing mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing sug­gests an arm­slength ap­proach by the con­ser­vancy rather than an em­brace of the project, but it could even­tu­ally be­come one.

“Kevin has evolved with Nick­laus Olm­sted Buf­falo, with more of a busi­ness component that’s tak­ing shape that I think our trus­tees have re­sponded fa­vor­ably to,” said Stephanie Crock­att, the con­ser­vancy’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

But while “no one dis­putes the grander vi­sion for th­ese ideas,” the con­ser­vancy needs to see fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies and a busi­ness plan, Crock­att said.

“We have to un­der­stand what the time­line is go­ing to be, what the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents are and whether or not Buf­falo can sus­tain two Jack Nick­laus-de­signed cour­ses,” Crock­att said.

“There are a lot of ques­tions, and we’re hop­ing this MOU will help bring for­ward the an­swers so we can make

bet­ter in­formed con­sid­er­a­tions on whether or not th­ese projects move for­ward in re­al­ity.”

Gaughan first ap­proached the con­ser­vancy about his plan in 2014. He said the agree­ment al­lows the non­profit he set up to raise funds lo­cally with the con­ser­vancy’s ap­proval. That, he said, will help at­tract con­tri­bu­tions from out­side Western New York.

“We all know that ev­ery jour­ney be­gins with the first step,” Gaughan said. “But what we learn here in Buf­falo is that some­times that first step can be the most chal­leng­ing.

“What’s im­por­tant is we have a frame­work of co­op­er­a­tion, we have a shared in­ten­tion of pro­duc­ing the nec­es­sary stud­ies that will demon­strate the vi­a­bil­ity of my pro­posed plan, and we have ev­ery in­ten­tion to col­lab­o­rate with the con­ser­vancy to see that this won­der­ful po­ten­tial is re­al­ized for our city.”

The agree­ment spells out sev­eral ways in which the con­ser­vancy and Nick­laus Olm­sted Buf­falo will pur­sue their re­spec­tive mis­sions.

The agree­ment clar­i­fies the roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of each or­ga­ni­za­tion, and re­quires both groups to speak pub­licly as one voice. It ac­knowl­edges that de­ci­sions on what oc­curs in Olm­sted parks rests solely with the con­ser­vancy and the City of Buf­falo.

Nick­laus Olm­sted Buf­falo is also re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing for stud­ies, de­sign work and gen­er­at­ing pub­lic in­put that will be pre­sented to the con­ser­vancy and the city for con­sid­er­a­tion.

The project now has a re­vised cost of $32 mil­lion, about 25 per­cent less than an ear­lier es­ti­mate.

Nick­laus, who vis­ited the golf cour­ses on Sept. 17, has of­fered to de­sign them at cost.

Nick­laus said at the time that he was at­tracted to the project partly for the chance to work in an Olm­sted-de­signed park. He said he looked for­ward to de­sign­ing a new golf course, and he liked the idea of aid­ing a long-sought goal of restor­ing the Olm­sted­de­signed ar­bore­tum in South Park, which would be pos­si­ble by re­mov­ing the golf course there now.

Peter Hunt, a Nick­laus Olm­sted Buf­falo board mem­ber who is putting the busi­ness plan to­gether, said he be­lieves the golf course planned near South Park could be a jewel in Buf­falo’s crown.

“Here we have the per­son who prob­a­bly has one of the high­est name recog­ni­tion in the world com­ing to Buf­falo, New York, and mak­ing it part of his legacy,” Hunt said. “I think we can’t over­es­ti­mate the value of that in Buf­falo.”

Hunt added that the mo­men­tum around the Nick­laus projects could also un­leash more funds for the Olm­sted parks.

But he warned the clock is tick­ing. Nick­laus is 79, and near­ing the end of his de­sign work.

“There is a time ur­gency here,” Hunt said.

Sharon Can­til­lon/Buf­falo News

Kevin Gaughan, head of Nick­laus Olm­sted Buf­falo, sits be­tween Stephanie Crock­att, left, and El­iz­a­beth McPhail of the Buf­falo Olm­sted Parks Con­ser­vancy.

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