Buffalo May Turn Parking Craters into Neighborhoods

A vision for redeveloping the parking lots at Keybank Center, where the Buffalo Sabres play. Photos: Fred Frank
A vision for redeveloping the parking lots at Keybank Center, where the Buffalo Sabres play. Photos: Fred Frank

Five transit-rich acres south of downtown Buffalo could be transformed from a 700-space parking lot for the Buffalo Sabres into a new neighborhood.

As Buffalo gears up for an extension of its 6.5-mile light rail system, the Nickel City is eyeing the Keybank Center parking lots — and how they can be turned into places for people again.

Buffalo is planning to extend its light rail 6.5 miles. Map: Fred Frank
Buffalo is planning to extend its light rail 6.5 miles. Map: Fred Frank

The Sabres’ development is only conceptual, but the team’s ownership controls the land, and has begun investing in, and developing, real estate, said Fred Frank, whose engineering firm, WSP, has been retained by Buffalo as a consultant. Hundreds of units of new walkable development, directly on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority rail line, are part of a conceptual plan the city developed for the site [PDF].

Here’s one example:

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 12.26.49 PM
Boulevard Mall, current status.
Boulevard Mall site, rail-oriented redevelopment concept. graphic via Fred Frank
Boulevard Mall site, rail-oriented redevelopment concept. graphic via Fred Frank

The Boulevard Mall in Amherst, an inner-ring suburb, is going through foreclosure. Buffalo planners are trying to help neighbors envision how it could be a transit-oriented neighborhood as the light rail extends north from the University of Buffalo. The new light rail line could actually run through the mall property.

“We’re trying to influence a new owner to … really think about how you could influence that whole site to be transit-oriented,” said Frank, who presented some of this information at the Railvolution conference  this week in Pittsburgh.

Here’s another proposal for a barely used park-and-ride station, the LaSalle Station. Before…

lasalle before

And after…

LeSalle Station, conceptual redevelopment. Image via Fred Frank
LaSalle Station, conceptual redevelopment. Image via Fred Frank

This park-and-ride station is owned by the city of Buffalo and the transit agency, NFTA. And it’s barely used, just about five miles from downtown.

The transit agency, having already been approached by developers, is preparing to release a request for proposals for development on the site. The conceptual drawings, above, show a scheme for residential development with ground floor retail.

“Our goal was to inspire the community to get behind those,” said Frank. “I think it is really inspired.”

  • The area around the Sabres used to be a neighborhood back in the day before urban renewal and the suburban flight turned the city I grew up in into a sea of surface parking lots.

    As for the LaSalle station…this was supposed to be the site of an extension of the light rail system into Tonawanda following the existing rail ROW adjacent to the station. It was never built, but the overpasses on Main St. were eventually removed.

    Careful about the extension to North Campus…a surface rail line is not the most ideal situation in a climate that boasts significant snowfall. If anything, build an elevated line.

  • crazyvag

    Starts with the kink in the route? Transit is already slow enough without unnecessary detours.

  • The extension’s been discussed even before the light rail line opened in 1984. I rode the train to South Campus for many years. The light rail essentially replaced the 8 Main bus line. Sure, it’s faster to travel underground, but it’s not like the system is a network of rail lines connecting points N-S-E-W. Why? There’s no need. The problem with Buffalo is the population keeps shrinking. How many cities with 250,000 inhabitants are investing billions in light rail? Amherst/Cheektowaga/Tonawanda are car oriented suburbs and always will be.

  • Bernard Finucane

    While they’re at it they should replace I190 with a surface street.

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