The Niagara Waterfront Opportunity project was based on work begun in 2007 through a grant from the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) program. That Phase 1 Pre-Nomination Study identified a workable boundary for the area, conducted a thorough analysis of existing conditions, and generated ideas for revitalization.
A second phase – the Nomination Study – was deferred. Six years later, with national economic conditions improved since the financial crisis of 2008, regional economic prospects now much brighter, and state tax credits for remediation and redevelopment recently renewed, the work to develop a revitalization strategy for the Buffalo Avenue Corridor was resumed.
This project merged the Phase 2 Nomination Study under the BOA program with Phase 3 Implementation Strategies to create a fully-actionable plan for redevelopment in the project area. This included an audit and update of the Phase 1 study, additional analysis of environmental, social, and economic conditions in the corridor, and identification and analysis of key opportunities and challenges for revitalization.
Citizens and stakeholders were invited to review, revise, and validate the vision and goals developed in Phase 1 and help to further refine preliminary redevelopment concepts for strategic sites. Assessments of strategic sites identified requirements for environmental remediation and the marketability of such sites. The final Niagara Opportunity plan includes recommendations for revised land use and zoning regulations, proposed design guidelines, special economic development designations, and specific construction projects.
Step 1: Existing Conditions and Vision
The first task was to review and audit the Phase 1 Pre Nomination Study. This allowed us to update the inventory and analysis of the area’s history, demographics, physical conditions, land use, property ownership, zoning, and environmental conditions.
An in-depth economic and market analysis identified the potential for redevelopment at sites within the project area and what needs to be done to realize and maximize that potential. Specifically, the market analysis defined industries that have a competitive advantage in the region; opportunities for residential, commercial, industrial, and tourism development; and the benefits and fiscal impacts of redevelopment strategies on the project area. The consultant firms also assessed existing conditions of the area’s neighborhoods, parks and open spaces, infrastructure, transportation networks and projects, and buildings. Strategic sites were identified based on this information.
Precedent case studies of successful redevelopment projects in old industrial areas from across North America and Europe were included in the appendices to illustrate what is possible and help the community and the project team discuss what is desirable for this area. Additionally, the feasibility of improving resident and visitor access to the upper river waterfront as well as improving access into downtown Niagara Falls from the 190 was evaluated.
Step 2: Alternatives
With the guidance of the City of Niagara Falls and a broad-based steering committee, the project team developed alternative concepts and overall strategy for the Niagara Waterfront Opportunity Area based on the vision, goals, and analysis developed in the Step 1 work. An opportunity to review and comment was provided on-line.
Step 3: Action Plan
Based on public input and the technical information developed by the project team, the alternatives were analyzed, ranked, and selected for inclusion in the final action plan for the Niagara Waterfront Opportunity Area. These selections were presented at a third public meeting held in February 2017. In parallel, the project team will develop a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) required by law under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. The final plan was completed in mid-2017.