A $12.8 million plan to turn Ohio Street into a tree-lined parkway linking Buffalo’s inner and outer harbors gained momentum Thursday, with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. adopting a general plan to transform the road.
The goal is to establish the 1.4-mile street, stretching between Michigan Avenue and Fuhrmann Boulevard, as a major link between the inner and outer harbors, with trees and flowers, decorative light standards, pocket parks, information kiosks, and biking and running lanes.
“This project will create a gateway between the inner and outer harbors that will not only be a safe, pedestrian-friendly route, but will also serve as a catalyst for private investment,” said Thomas Dee, the harbor development agency’s president.
Since the June 2011 opening of Buffalo River Fest Park, the Ohio Street corridor along the Buffalo River has become a destination for a number of summer events.
The planned two-lane parkway between Michigan Avenue and Fuhrmann Boulevard, and near the city’s Cobblestone District, also would complement other recent developments along the Buffalo River,.
Most of the funding for the project, which could be completed by mid-2015, will come from federal highway dollars obtained by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, along with $2 million from the New York Power Authority.
Higgins, a longtime champion of the planned parkway, last September called for speeding up the conversion of a dilapidated stretch of Ohio Street, and warned that delays threatened the loss of $5.1 million of $8 million in planned federal funds.
“I believe we can get this under design and construction within the next 12 to 18 months,” Higgins said at the time.
He was hopeful that a design could be completed and construction under way within a year to a year and a half.
Currently, Ohio Street is a shell of its industrial past, littered with abandoned buildings and vacant lots.
However, work on the inner and outer harbors has picked up steam over the past couple of years.
Faux canals are under construction, as are hotels and new hockey rinks.
A summertime favorite, the old Thursday at the Square concerts have now become Thursday at the Harbor and drawing record crowds.
The new parkway is considered another important development for the city’s long-squandered waterfront.
A public hearing on the project will be held at 6 p.m. April 25 at Erie Community College’s City Campus.