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Over at Canalside… plenty of pretty blue fencing

canal356The “East Canal” pocket park at Canalside is really taking shape, and from the looks of it, the space is promising to be something special. Located at the south end of One Canalside and immediately outside the front door and drop off of the new Courtyard by Marriott, the water park will feature a reflecting pool, abundant trees and landscaping and outdoor seating areas. The area between the park and Scott Street, labeled parcel “D-2” on the Canalside modified plan, is being sodded just today, and hopefully a request for proposals will be released for a new structure sooner than later.

canal3591Additionally, One Canalside, the renovated old Donovan Building, can expect to start receiving its new main tenant, the Philips Lytle law firm, later this month, while the hotel portion of the building will open in spring. No word yet as to the leasing of the main floor for one or more restaurant tenants.

Of course, work on HarborCenter is progressing at a dizzying pace, with hundreds of construction workers onsite and equipment, machinery, and materials coming in and out of the construction site on a regular basis. Yesterday Ryan Poropat, construction manager for their general contractor Mortensen Construction, reported to the media that the entire shell of the building will be completed by early spring.

HarborCenter progress proceeding rapidly right next door to First Niagara Center

HarborCenter progress proceeding rapidly right next door to First Niagara Center

Yet work on the “Aud Block”, where construction of the Faux historically aligned Canals began in May of 2012, has been stalled, with the finish line being pushed back repeatedly, and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation officials now saying that the work should be completed by next summer.

Contracts for this project were approved way back in December of 2011, with the successful bidder being Dipizio Construction of Cheektowaga. A golden opportunity to seize advantage of an exceptionally mild winter that year was squandered when State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver abruptly stepped in and held up the project. Our local Assembly and Senate delegation was reluctant or refused to challenge the Speaker and get work moving.

Construction finally began in May of 2012. With work being processed at a too slow pace, the ECHDC fired the contractor in June of 2013, with the project just a little more than half way done. An entire construction summer was lost while the ECHDC dithered, finally naming a new master contractor, Pike Construction, sometime around Labor Day.

canal1And today? Over at the Aud Block, there were a total of four, yes FOUR, workers on the site. That’s it. That’s all. In the recent two weeks, the contractor has installed blue barrier tarps along the fencing surrounding the entire perimeter of the Aud Block. That fencing is adorned with pretty logos, and today, two of those four workers were busy adorning yet more logos onto the blue tarps, which is presumably in place so that the public cannot see that no real work is actually going on over at the canals.

This entire project has been botched from the get go. It is amazing how the ECHDC and their construction team can pull off the East Canal with a sense of purpose and timeliness, yet the larger parcel has languished for so long, and now they are rolling out RFPs and engineering work for three new structures to be built along those unfinished canals.

The Buffalo Sabres and HarborCenter officials have organized no fewer than three media tours since work has begun on their facility. Mind you, this is a private development that really owes no accountability to the public at large, and their regular briefings and updates to the public and the press are refreshing and most welcome.

Yet the ECHDC rarely does similar updates for the public, despite their being a public benefit corporation wholly supported by tax dollars. Their web site languishes for weeks with few updates, and one can only guess as to the status and progress of their myriad of projects. Anybody see construction equipment lined up along the Ohio Street corridor? Work was supposed to begin on the new boulevard in November. It’s November.

You catch the news that the lighting project for the Connecting Terminal Elevator won’t begin until April, with a projected completion date of fall. Why is this taking so long?

It’s great to stand at the corner of Main and Scott and just soak in the awe and wonder of what is going on down there, just by doing the quick 360. It would be even greater to see our Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation do their tasks and complete their projects with a greater sense of urgency. The public is watching and waiting with anticipation, Tom Dee…

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  • UncleBluck

    My recollection was Dipizio was 3 million dollars (approx 17.5%) low on the bid. The powers that be at the ECHDC should have known better than to award the project to Dipizio as they had obviously made a rather large mistake with their bid……