It would be great to hear some other ideas, and we’re not sure the list of potential developers should be limited to Rocco Termini – though he has been tremendously successful in restoration projects – but there is a lot to like about the ideas percolating between Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and his friend Termini regarding the old DL&W terminal.
Higgins’ idea is to leverage the ongoing Buffalo waterfront projects into a plan to put vacant space at the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western terminal back into use, possibly through a public market that could also feature a restaurant and water access that would make the site attractive to boaters, especially boaters who savor the aroma of freshly baked Cheerios.
The terminal’s ground floor has been home to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metro Rail maintenance facility since 1984, but the upper floor has been essentially vacant since 1962, when the DL&W’s successor, Erie-Lackawanna, ended passenger service.
Ideas have come and gone for the building’s reuse, and, this being Buffalo, nothing came of any of them. But this is a new day for the city. The waterfront area is humming with activity, including construction of a new hockey and commercial complex planned for the Webster block, the reconstruction of the old Donovan State Office Building into a hotel and law offices, the construction of faux canals and commercial venues on the former site of Memorial Auditorium, the completion of the Erie Canal Harbor public space and new construction at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
Activity begets more activity; with those attractions operating, or soon to be, the waterfront area is becoming a magnet for residents and visitors, alike. This is the right moment to look closely at leveraging that activity to spark interest in other projects that have languished. The old DL&W terminal ranks high on that list.
Higgins has a record of getting things done, so it is to the benefit of Buffalo and Western New York that he has set his sights on this project. That also goes for Termini, who turned the rundown Hotel Lafayette into the sparkling Hotel @ the Lafayette. But while a market might be a fine use for that space, it would be useful to hear other ideas, as well.
Because the NFTA has been marketing the site for more than 20 years, there may be an opportunity to exempt Termini from the normal process of submitting a request for proposals.
The question is whether that strategy best meets the public’s interest in developing this space, especially since Termini says the project would require millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
It is an exciting time around Buffalo’s waterfront and other parts of the city where construction is suddenly booming. A project to reuse the DL&W terminal would only add to the sense of possibility as Buffalo awakens to its life in the 21st century. These ideas should not be allowed to sit on a shelf for another two decades.