Directors of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. on Wednesday approved a modified plan for Canalside that includes the planned new mixed-use buildings that will house the Explore & More Children’s Museum, a restaurant and possibly even residential space.
The modifications to the general project plan feature the redevelopment of the southern portion of the Aud Block and revisions to the overall budget based on the Sabres’ privately financed HarborCenter project on the Webster Block.
The original plan had been approved in 2009 when officials were still counting on Bass Pro Shops to build a giant retail store on the Aud Block.
Now the southern edge of the Aud Block – bordered by Main and Scott streets – will see up to 100,000 square feet of mixed-use development. ECHDC will oversee construction of three buildings and continue to own them.
The biggest portion will be a single 80,000-square-foot building, about half of which would be taken up by the children’s museum. The rest would be a mixture of office and residential space, said Steve Gawlik, the agency’s deputy general counsel.
“We like the 80,000 square feet,” said agency president Tom Dee, who noted that it will still be overshadowed by One Canalside and HarborCenter. “We didn’t like the idea of just a 40,000-square-foot building hunkering down on the site. This has some mass.”
Additionally, the site will feature a 15,000-square-foot restaurant, a 5,000-square-foot “comfort station” and visitor kiosk, as well as retail space or other amenities. Bids for the restaurant operator are due Nov. 21. And officials hope to issue a request for proposals for the temporary beer garden as well.
So far, the agency has received nine proposals for architectural engineering for the South Aud Block, including seven from local firms.
The work also includes more public infrastructure work, including rebuilding parts of the former Lake and Lloyd streets across the site and putting in bikeway trail amenities and signs. Plans also call for converting the parking areas under the Skyway near Perry Street for Canalside use.
The plan will now go out for public comment, with a hearing scheduled Dec. 3 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The agency also approved an updated vision and mission statement and a new retainer agreement for Damon Morey LLP as its real estate law firm, extending the existing contract two more years and doubling the size from $100,000 to $200,000. Besides remaining work on the inner harbor area, officials noted that the expansion of the agency’s responsibility to include the outer harbor will mean significantly more legal work in the future.
Meanwhile, work continues on the artificial canals. The east canal, in front of the One Canalside Building, is expected to be finished by the end of the month, while the historically aligned canal project on the former Aud site will wrap up by summer, Dee said.
Plans for illuminating the Skyway and grain elevators also are moving forward. Schematics will be presented for the Skyway lighting concept on Dec. 9, while design drawings will be submitted Dec. 18 for the lighting of the first of 16 grain silos across from Canalside. The silo project will go out for bid at the end of April, with an expectation that it will light up in the fall. The property is owned by the New York Power Authority, but equipment will be stored on land owned by General Mills.