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Webster Block plan aired

Webster Block Planning Bd 12.4.12
                                                                                                Derek Gee/Buffalo News

Wayne London, a senior architect with Populous, explains the Buffalo Sabres' plans for the Webster Block to the Buffalo Planning Board this morning.   

By Jill Terreri

The Buffalo Sabres' redevelopment of the Webster Block appears to be moving according to schedule, and is on-target for a March groundbreaking.

The Sabres' architect, Wayne London of Populous, presented the project to the Planning Board this morning for the first time. He showed preliminary plans for the development, which will include two ice rinks, a hotel, sports bar, parking deck, and walkway into First Niagara Center. The hotel, the size of which is still being worked out, will be narrow, will face Main Street and many rooms will have views of the water.

The entire block, which is bounded by Main, Washington, Perry, and Scott Streets will be built out, though there would be an opportunity for an outdoor patio at the restaurant, London said.

The width of Washington Street will be reduced, and will accommodate two lanes of traffic.

Populous has met with others in the Buffalo design community on their plans so far, in order to get feedback. The design guidelines for Canalside, put in place by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., have not been difficult to work with, London said.

The project blends the existing architecture features of the First Niagara Center with the more historic elements of Canalside, he said.

The plans received initial positive reviews from the board.

A sale of the land from the city to HARBORCenter LLC, the Sabres' development group, has not been completed, and a purchase price has not been finalized. The Common Council, which must vote on the sale, have not seen a presentation on the project yet.

The Sabres are confident they will be ready for a March groundbreaking. The two new ice rinks must be ready by September 2014, in order to accommodate skaters during that winter season, said Cliff Benson, chief development officer for the Sabres. Ice is usually booked a year in advance, and if it's not ready by September, they could lose a year of play there, he said.

Also today, a proposal for a new location for South Buffalo Charter School, on a large brownfield site, was approved. The school hopes to move into its new location by fall of 2014. The site is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Brownfield Cleanup Program, and the state must approve the school's remediation plans.

The Board also approved plans for Savarino Companies' reuse of the former F.N. Burt box company headquarters at 500 Seneca St., and for construction of a brewery at Gene McCarthy's bar at 73 Hamburg St.

A one-story expansion of Karma Salon and Spa at 731 Elmwood Ave. was also approved.

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |