After more than a decade of planning, the dream of the Buffalo Maritime Center and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to create a Canalside attraction that pays direct homage to the city’s past will become a reality.
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. directors approved a series of measures that will see the construction of the 4,400-square-foot Longshed building begin later this month and, next summer, start work on the replica, circa 1825 Erie Canal packet boat — much like the one Gov. DeWitt Clinton rode across the state to commemorate the trans New York waterway.
“This is the highest and best use for this parcel and a key part of our build up to the Erie Canal bicentennial,” said ECHDC director Michael Vogel.
The wood-framed Longshed building should be completed by next summer. It is designed to replicate the Joy and Webster store that sat on the same parcel in the early 1800s.
The ECHDC approved an agreement with the City of Buffalo to purchase a nearly one-quarter of acre parcel overlooking the Commercial Slip that will house the Longshed building. The ECHDC is paying Buffalo $150,000 for the property and also investing another $140,000 in building public restrooms as part of the project.
Additionally, Savarino Cos. — the lowest of three bidders — was selected as the construction manager. Savarino is being paid no more than $5.53 million and the Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects LLC firm will be paid another $170,000 to provide additional design services for the project. The firm was previously selected as the architect and designer.
The impact of building the 73-foot-long packet boat on site is expected to pay huge dividends, Vogel said. It not only recalls Buffalo’s role as the Erie Canal’s western terminus but also can serve as an attraction and educational tool.
“It will allow Buffalo to reconnect with its own story,” Vogel said.
The boat will weigh four tons and is being built from 10 different types of wood. It will be berthed in the Commercial Slip but also travel along the canal via tug, or, even pulled by dray horses, in some instances.
“This project has been a passion of ours for a long time,” said John Montague, Buffalo Maritime Center executive director.