Preliminary asbestos removal within the former Freezer Queen property on Buffalo’s waterfront is expected to begin in earnest by July 18 and with that the first phase of the closely watched $60 million Queen City Landing project will be underway.
The fate of the oft-discussed Fuhrmann Boulevard project — one of the first major, private-sector developments along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor — dominated Thursday morning’s Business First Waterfront Power Breakfast, sponsored by Hodgson Russ LLP and Wilmington Trust.
The Queen City Landing development is a milestone for that portion of the city's waterfront considering the investment and the spin-off impact it could create.Gerry Buchheit, one of the panel’s four panelists and the driving force behind the Queen City Landing project, said he is proud to be championing a project that many consider transformative for the waterfront.
But, at the same time, the project has generated some controversy, including an Article 78 proceeding making its way through State Supreme Court, that alleges the approvals granted by various Buffalo agencies was fast-tracked and not properly vetted for various environmental checkmarks.
Not so, Bucheit said.
“Everything that was required of us, we answered,” Buchheit said. “The concerns raised by the Buffalo Planning Board and Buffalo Common Council were addressed.”
Buchheit said the asbestos removal process should take anywhere from four to six weeks.
Pending the outcome of the Article 78 proceeding — which seeks to overturn the various Buffalo approvals — Buchheit said he would like to start demolishing the long-vacant Freezer Queen warehouse this fall and have the foundations in place for the 23-story tower by this winter.
Queen City Landing would be anchored by 199 apartments and a pair of restaurants, and expected to tenant-ready by late next year.
It would transform a 20-acre parcel that for generations was an industrial site with no public access into the centerpiece for Buffalo’s waterfront development efforts.
“We’re proud to be the first ones to take a stab at doing something great on the Outer Harbor,” Buchheit said.
Queen City Landing is not the only project advancing on Buffalo’s waterfront.
Explore & More Children’s Museum hopes to begin construction on its Canalside building within the next year.
The 43,000-square-foot, five-story, $17 million museum is expected to open by 2018, said Douglas Love, Explore & More president and CEO and another panelist.
“Buffalo is really one of the last cities of its size not to have a children’s museum in its downtown,” Love said. “The children’s museum is really going to change the landscape.”
Love said the museum, which will relocate from East Aurora, is expected to have a major economic impact bringing in thousands of school-aged children, their families and visitors into the heart of the Canalside district.
“We hope Explore & More becomes a gateway,” Love said.
Buffalo’s waterfront — both at Canalside and the Outer Harbor — continue to be an evolving works-in-progress, said Tom Dee, president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
“We’re a waterfront city,” Dee said. “We need to continue to echo that.”
Creative programming has resulted in a huge spike in activity within the Canalside footprint from wintertime ice skating to summer concerts and yoga classes.
With Rich Products handling the programming along the Outer Harbor, a number of new events have emerged this summer including this weekend’s Labatt UnDomesticated Games.
“We want the public to have access to the waterfront,” Dee said.
Helping to attract people to Canalside is the HarborCenter complex, which because of its twin-rink set up, has been home to 26 youth hockey tournaments per year and helped Buffalo secure the National Hockey League’s pre-draft combine and the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world junior tournament. The HarborCenter also brought the professional women’s hockey team, Buffalo Beauts, to downtown and provided a permanent home for the Canisius College and Erie Community College men’s hockey teams.
“The HarborCenter has helped change the way Buffalo is perceived within the NHL circles,” said Michael Gilbert, HarborCenter general manager, at the event. “Instead of saying we can’t do something, we are now saying we can do something.”