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The grain elevator across from Canalside will be illuminated year-round starting in late 2014 with colorful kinetic lights and a Buffalo-themed narrative, after a state waterfront agency gave its approval Wednesday.

The plan also calls for lighting the Ohio Street Bridge and the underside of the Skyway, and completing concept and marketing studies for a 45-minute multimedia spectacle that would be presented on the grain elevator at select times.

“This project is going to be transformational for Buffalo. It’s an exciting project, and one this board can take enormous pride in,” said Sam Hoyt, a member of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board.

Illuminating the Michigan Street Bridge, and highlighting the General Mills logo and its warehouse wall on the edge of the Buffalo River will occur if final construction estimates are under budget and other funding sources are realized, or else at a later stage.

The project, based on the Aurora Borealis Project, a tourist attraction in Quebec City, is envisioned by the waterfront agency as only the first of four phases that ultimately would light up about 14 grain elevators. It’s expected to become a major tourist attraction that at the same time would help rebrand Buffalo using art, architecture and its industrial past.

“I think this is a great project, and will really highlight the waterfront’s progress, the history of the grain elevators and their impact on the growth and development of the City of Buffalo,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown, a nonvoting member of the board.

“This is just going to be a spectacular attraction that is going to draw people into Buffalo to see this light show not only regionally, but nationally and internationally, as well.”

The unanimous vote also had the support of Erie County Executive Marc C. Poloncarz, also a nonvoting member of the board.

Erie Canal Harbor Development voted to spend $1.5 million for lighting design and engineering services with Ambiant Design Productions of Montreal and Buffalo-based Foit-Albert Associates, which would increase to $5 million with $3.5 million in expected construction costs.

In addition, the waterfront agency Wednesday approved $846,191 for consultant services for 17 months with Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, which it first contracted with last June, to continue developing a vision and activation plan for programs, events and amenities at Canalside.

The board also approved a three-year, $264,550 contract with Arts Services Initiative of Western New York for programming and coordination services along the Buffalo River.

Last year, the organization administered the release of funds to 15 groups that offered 177 free events between May and October.

Arts groups interested in applying should contact the organization at 846-8270.

email: msommer@buffnews.com