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Plans Unveiled for Elk Street Corridor Development

300 mostly vacant acres along Buffalo River envisioned as multiuse, public-access site

Buffalo News

A more than 300-acre swath of mostly industrial properties in South Buffalo is being targeted for remediation and redevelopment.

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. Tuesday took the wraps off an ambitious blueprint to reposition dozens of primarily privately owned sites along the so-called Elk Street Corridor, between the Niagara Thruway and the Buffalo River.

"The goal is to create a common framework that will benefit the existing businesses and residents and create new opportunities for private investment," said BUDC Vice President David Stebbins.

Redevelopment scenarios include a mix of back office, light manufacturing, distribution and retail uses.

The master plan also calls for increased public access to the Buffalo River shoreline, including a new park at the foot of Babcock Street. Preliminary plans include a pedestrian bridge across the river linking the site to the RiverBend Commerce Park.

Another park with hiking trails and river overlook would be established at the southern tip of the former Buffalo Color Corp. property.

Under the plan, a majority of the properties would remain under private ownership, with a select number of sites under local government control to either attract private investors or create public access.

Mark Mistretta of Wendel Duscherer Architects & Engineers detailed the conceptual plan for BUDC's board of directors, noting that much of redevelopment target area is composed of dormant industrial properties.

"There's lot of vacant land, so there's lots to work with," Mistretta said. "The idea would be to build on this over time to fill in the gaps."

The bulk of the sites in the target area are controlled by two major owners - Exxon Mobil and Honeywell International - which own a combined nearly 200 acres of industrial properties. Honeywell owns much of the idle Buffalo Color and Allied Signal sites which both require significant environmental cleanup.

"Honeywell and Exxon Mobil are both working on remediation plans; this plan offers ideas on what could come next," Stebbins said.

While the blueprint calls for active businesses and a long-standing residential neighborhood off Elk Street to remain in place, Mayor Byron W. Brown said it is possible the city will step in to relocate a handful of isolated residents.

"There are some areas where there are only one or two houses on a block," Brown said. "These folks might want to relocate if we can come up with a way to fairly compensate them."

The Elk Street Corridor plan is expected to be folded into the ongoing South Buffalo Brownfields Opportunity Area study to serve as a planning tool.

The urban development board also gave the go-ahead to lease the dormant Feine Steel building at RiverBend Commerce Park. BUDC had planned to demolish the the 75,000- square-foot metal structure to clear the site for redevelopment, but recent drops in scrap steel prices have increased dismantling costs.

Modern Recycling wants to rent the building for 12 months for use as a storage site for baled materials on their way to recycling plants.