The Dream, at Last: Reconstruction of Canal District. Concept to Remove North Skyway Viaduct, Thruway Interchange Wins Contest
It only took 27 years, but the complete reconstruction of Buffalo's Canal District is within sight. Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated a contest last February to develop concepts for the future of the Skyway. The competition was overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). On September 17, a winner was chosen that clears the path for the reconstruction not only of the Canal District, but other neighborhoods and streets as well. The central idea was to remove the northern viaduct of the Skyway, the Thruway interchange, and the on/off ramps, freeing up acres of land to reconstruct neighborhoods and connections that were destroyed 65 years ago. It is a great victory for preservation in Buffalo; the bookend to the successful lawsuit and public campaign to save the Canal District from destruction 20 years ago.
It is a tectonic shift. We have gone from preservationists, led by Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, being forced to sue in federal court to stop an ESDC plan that would have destroyed all remnants of the Canal District, to ESDC sponsoring a plan that makes it possible to not only authetically reconstruct the Canal District, but to go further, and reconstruct the long lost, long forgotten Terrace, a park and promenade that goes back to Joseph Ellicott’s first rough sketch of the Village of New Amsterdam. And maybe reconstruct another stretch of the Erie Canalway, parts of Canal Street and the buildings that lined both.
The Campaign is working to update its 2007 proposal for a “Skywalk,” which, similar to the winning proposal, saves the main spans of the Skyway and the south viaduct, but goes further, saving the embankment as a continuous elevated bikeway and walkway to Tifft Farm and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Skyway vehicular traffic would be routed along Ganson and Ohio streets to and from downtown, or simply use the Thruway rather than Route 5. A September post shows our original 2007 proposal.
In the meantime, we can start dreaming about reconstructing downtown, and our image.