Two major projects on Ohio Street were given key approvals by the Common Council on Tuesday, one that will make the drive to the Buffalo River and outer harbor more attractive for visitors and another that will bring market-rate housing and office space.
Ohio Street, in the Old First Ward, is viewed as a key connector between downtown and the outer harbor, in a part of the city where the activities are rapidly evolving from industrial to recreational. It was originally designed for heavy truck traffic, and a $10 million redesigned parkway will include new lighting and landscaping, and walking and biking paths.
Work is expected to start in the spring and wrap up in summer 2015, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.
The project includes reconstruction of the street between its start at Route 5/Fuhrmann Boulevard, and Michigan Avenue, plus improvements at St. Clair Street between Ohio and South streets.
A $10 million contract was awarded to CATCO and will be funded with $7.2 million in federal funds, $1.8 million from the New York Power Authority’s relicensing agreement and $1.1 million from the city.
Margaret Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, said there is greater interest in recreation activities on the Buffalo River, which has been neglected for too long.
“People in the community have a renewed sense of pride,” she said. “It’s really turning more into a cultural, recreational destination.”
Meanwhile, Savarino Cos. is planning a redevelopment of 441 Ohio St., the site of the city’s last remaining freight house, with apartments and office space.
The Council agreed Tuesday to override the decision of the city’s Preservation Board and allow demolition of the Erie Freight House.
With the Council’s approval, the company will be able to finish its application for a demolition permit in the hopes of taking down the condemned structure before the heavy snow arrives, said Kevin P. Hays, project coordinator at Savarino Cos.
The company hopes to begin construction in the spring and is applying for state brownfield tax credits.
In other action Tuesday, lawmakers granted landmark status to St. Ann Church and Shrine, over the objections of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. While not necessarily prohibiting demolition, the move will add further protections and make demolition more difficult.
Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen said the decision to landmark the church was not a case of the Council overruling the diocese.
“It has something to do with a landmark in a struggling community,” Pridgen said.
But the diocese had sent letters to Council members urging them not to do so, contending that such a designation would interfere with efforts to find a reuse for the property and, if necessary, demolition of the building if its structural condition jeopardizes health and safety.
In other action Tuesday:
• Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bus driver Darnell J. Barton accepted a proclamation from lawmakers and urged the audience to do the right thing, no matter the cost. While driving a bus full of students, Barton acted quickly on Oct. 18 to save a woman who had climbed over the guardrail of the Elmwood Avenue overpass of the Scajaquada Expressway. The event was captured on video, and his story has spread around the globe.
• Lawmakers approved a name change for 125 Main St. from the Donovan Building to One Canalside. The Phillips Lytle law firm is moving in later this month, and a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel will open in April.