Just a few years ago, Rep. Brian Higgins noted Monday, few Western New Yorkers found any reason to visit a Buffalo outer harbor marked by desolation.
But as he pointed to progress at a new recreational pier under construction at the foot of Tifft Street during a morning news conference, the Buffalo Democrat said the face of the waterfront for the next century is beginning to take shape.
“These projects finishing in the next few months will change Buffalo for the next 100 years – and for the better,” he said.
The latest and most visible project surrounds the new pier jutting into the harbor just south of the former South End Marina grain elevators. Part of $4.2 million in projects stemming from various government sources now popping up on various locations, Higgins said even more developments are now attracting waterfront visitors.
He also pointed to a new industrial heritage trail on the Outer Harbor Parkway just north of the Ohio Street intersection set to open soon and the Lake Kirsty Pier at Tifft Nature Preserve completed last year.
Soon, he predicted, the waterfront will teem with even more activity once swimming opens at Gallagher Beach and Wilkeson Point.
“I will tell you that three years ago very few people were using the outer harbor,” he said. “That is no longer the case.”
Higgins was joined by Darrel Kaminski, regional director of the state Department of Transportation, to note the waterfront progress.
Kaminski said that several years ago, Higgins insisted that more could be done along the harbor shore.
“Brian said we could do better,” he said. “It was a challenge. We had no funding. But we found a way.”
The new Tifft pier features a steel ribbon walkway heading to an observation deck covered by a canopy. Decks with landscaping and seating areas will line the shore and are slated for completion by late summer.
Higgins also said the heritage trail will feature a bicycle and pedestrian path lined with granite and is slated to open this month. The Lake Kirsty project, already completed, is a large wooden pier extending into the water.
The congressman reiterated his vision for the Buffalo waterfront not as “another city,” but as a complement to what already exists. He said the future waterfront will more closely resemble Chicago’s spread-out development rather than the concentration of buildings for which Baltimore is known.
“We’re looking for a great waterfront to complement the great city that we have,” Higgins said.