On May 11, 2022, a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the North Aud Block in Buffalo, New York. This is the State’s final remaining parcel to be developed in the revitalized Canalside area on the waterfront.
This RFP presents an opportunity for experienced real estate developers to transform the nearly two-acre site, which is key to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Buffalo.
Representative Brian Higgins said, “It is a pivotal time of change for Buffalo’s Inner and Outer Harbors as well as the Buffalo River. Western New York couldn’t ask for a better partner than Governor Hochul in helping to lead the transformation of Buffalo’s waterfront. Where infrastructure investment is made, private sector interest and regional economic opportunity follows. This project allows us to finally move the North Aud Block from vacant to vibrant.”
The Aud Block’s rebirth dates to 2014, when ECHDC completed the construction of a series of “canals” on the South Aud Block, based on the historic Erie and Hamburg canals. These shallow waterways support ice skating in the winter, roller-skating in the fall and other recreational activities during the summer, including paddle and pedal boating. Canalside’s construction also included the creation of public spaces and bridges.
Assemblymember Jon Rivera said, “The imminent redevelopment and transformation of the North Aud Block represents yet another step in the dramatic revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront. Through the past decade, smart investment and a combination of recreation and dining opportunities have turned Canalside into one of the city’s premier outdoor destinations. When the North Aud Block is fully redeveloped with retail, restaurants, office and residential units, the area will rightly reclaim the sort of buzz and activity that epitomized the former Buffalo Memorial Auditorium that once inhabited the space.”
New York State previously committed $10 million in funding to transform the North Aud Block, which will be made available to the selected developer to support site infrastructure.
State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “This is yet another example of New York’s continued commitment to transforming our waterfront and investing in an interactive, recreational space that connects Western New Yorkers and tourists alike. I look forward to seeing what this parcel will become, and how it will be incorporated into the existing offerings that attract so many individuals and families year round.”
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, a state entity, envisions that the project will include retail, restaurants, office space, apartments, a hotel and structured parking within several buildings. The project will incorporate portions of the 19th-century street grid while allowing modernization that acknowledges the site’s 21st-century surroundings and infrastructure, blending historic details with the current surrounding City.
“Canalside has become a destination location and catalyst for renewal of Buffalo’s historic waterfront,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.
“Redeveloping the North Aud Block will help boost the economy, open new public spaces and make the Buffalo waterfront an even more popular place to live, work and play. The Erie Canal was a bold and audacious undertaking that no one thought was possible, and New York continues to build on our proud legacy with this transformative project,” she added.
The site is primarily vacant and was once part of a superblock and home to Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, which the state demolished in 2009. This RFP permits respondents to propose a variety of uses, though proposals are required to include certain mandatory design features, as per the Canalside Design Guidelines.
State Senator Sean Ryan said, “In the last few years, new waterfront attractions like the Buffalo Heritage Carousel and the Explore & More Children’s Museum have helped turn Canalside into a year-round destination. The successful redevelopment of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor has breathed new life into the city’s waterfront and laid the foundation for a major reimagining of what is possible for Downtown Buffalo. For years, I have joined Congressman Higgins in calling for development of the North Aud Block site that would complement our investment into Canalside. Today’s announcement is a major milestone as we transform the area surrounding Canalside into a vibrant neighborhood, and I am thrilled to see a new vision finally coming into focus.”
The assumed development plan includes nearly 425,000 gross square feet in several buildings with an estimated 200 residential apartments and commercial spaces, office/operations space for ECHDC, and up to 450 parking spaces located in a structured ramp that would be constructed both below and above grade. The multiple building development is encouraged to be set within a reconstructed historic street pattern, allowing more of Lloyd Street and Commercial Street to be reconstructed to complete missing sections.
ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia said, “The development of the North Aud Block is integral to connecting Canalside to Buffalo’s established business district and will further enhance the area as a vibrant, urban neighborhood. We look forward to reviewing thoughtful mixed-use development plans that fully explore this location’s potential.”
The added canal features have grown in popularity and visitor numbers each year, and are attracting private investment in other new amenities, such as Explore & More: The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum and the upcoming Heritage Point, which is currently under construction and expected to open in 2023.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “The development of Buffalo’s Canalside has helped spark a new life in the city’s downtown and entertainment district in addition to helping to stimulate the area’s economy. Redeveloping the North Aud Block is the final phase of revitalizing Buffalo’s Canalside and historic waterfront. Residents and tourists can now look forward to visiting the completed all-seasoned attraction. I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership and investment in WNY through the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.”
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) is governed by a nine-member board consisting of seven voting directors and two non-voting, ex-officio directors. The seven voting directors are recommended by the New York State Governor and are appointed by the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development as sole shareholder of ECHDC. The two non-voting, ex-officio director positions are held by the Erie County Executive and the City of Buffalo Mayor.
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “This is yet another important milestone in the transformation of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor. With this RFP, the stage is set for making our Inner Harbor a better place, to live, work, and visit, while creating a significant number of jobs for our residents and adding to the city’s tax base. I thank Gov. Kathy Hochul for following through with the vision of what Canalside will be for present and future Buffalo and Western New York residents and visitors. I also thank the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for it stewardship of this iconic site.”
As a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside, the Ohio Street corridor and the Outer Harbor that is attracting critical mass, private investment and enhance the enjoyment of the waterfront for residents and tourists in Western New York. Its vision is to revitalize Western New York’s waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region’s legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty.
Respondents to this RFP may propose any mix of uses that will advance the development goals and meet all the development requirements described in the RFP.
Proposals are due by 3 p.m. on September 1, 2022.
Canalside image courtesy Office of the New York Governor.