Published December 3, 2019
The Imagine LaSalle Project Team, a community engagement initiative around the redevelopment of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park supported by UB’s Regional Institute, has announced the selection of a firm to design a pedestrian bridge crossing Interstate 190 and providing critical links to surrounding neighborhoods.
Schlaich Bergermann Partner (SBP), a global engineering firm based in New York City, will develop a community-informed design for the new pedestrian bridge connecting 4th Street Park and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park (formerly LaSalle Park) over the next several months. The firm was chosen from a list of 10 bridge designers from around the world.
The selection of SBP is a key next step in the redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront park and builds off Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s October announcement committing New York State’s support for bridge construction and design. New York State will commit $7.5 million, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation committed an additional $5 million, and the city of Buffalo has announced $3 million toward the bridge.
“As an active user of LaSalle Park, I know how important this community asset is, and I look forward to the future Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park,” says Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“With funding commitments from our partners at the Wilson Foundation and the city of Buffalo, we are further enhancing an amazing project that will help to connect people to the water. I congratulate the team at Schlaich Bergermann Partner who will be an important part of the ongoing transformation of Buffalo’s waterfront,” Hochul adds.
In the summer of 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation provided support to launch the Imagine LaSalle initiative in partnership with the city of Buffalo, the UB Regional Institute and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to create a community vision for the park.
The process incorporated more than 1,100 community voices and was guided by 22 community ambassadors who explored the unique features of the park and travelled to parks in other cities to draw inspiration and ideas to bring back to Buffalo.
A priority of the community has been to make LaSalle Park easily accessible to all residents, regardless of socioeconomic status, ability or mode of transportation.
Currently, the I-190 and its ramps act as barriers, ultimately defining where one can enter the park. Moreover, the existing bridge crossing at Hudson Street is uncomfortable and unsafe. The Imagine LaSalle Focus Group strongly recommended that the Hudson Street Bridge be re-conceptualized as a new gateway to LaSalle Park that combines accessibility, safety and visual appeal.
“The creation of this new pedestrian bridge is a direct response to the community vision to develop an accessible, beautiful and safe connection from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park — and in turn our waterfront — to surrounding neighborhoods,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning and a member of the bride design jury.
“The Imagine LaSalle initiative will continue to facilitate conversations between the design team and the community as the pedestrian bridge design concept advances,” Shibley says.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown notes that the location of the pedestrian bridge demands that it be much more than a functional link. “It must be a one-of-a-kind, iconic pedestrian bridge that delights those passing through, and also sparks a sense of pride in local residents who will see it on a regular basis,” Brown says.
“My administration looks forward to working with SBP on this significant physical element that will tie Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park to the adjoining neighborhood and provide a dramatic visual element.”
In June 2019, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the city of Buffalo and Buffalo Urban Development Corp. invited 10 design firms from around the world to respond to a request for qualifications related to bridge design.
In September, the School of Architecture and Planning hosted design concept presentations that included its students, the city of Buffalo, Imagine LaSalle Focus Group and a bridge design jury consisting of Shibley; Michael Van Valkenburgh, president and CEO, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Michael J. Finn, commissioner, Buffalo Department of Public Works, Parks & Streets — Division of Engineering; Matthew M. Latko, Buffalo division director, New York State Thruway Authority; and Amanda Mays, regional director, Empire State Development.
After viewing presentations from the four design firms in attendance, jury members graded firms on a set of pre-selected criteria, then compared scores. After deliberation, the jury selected SBP to lead the design of a new pedestrian bridge.
“Throughout the selection process, the SBP team brought exciting ideas, technical know-how and passion for this bridge design project. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with them,” Van Valkenburgh says.
The engineering team, led by SBP partner Michael Stein, will kick off the design phase by working with the city of Buffalo, New York State transportation agencies and a team of their sub-consultants to evolve a broadly endorsed and well-grounded vision for the bridge. The SBP team will present a preliminary design vision to Buffalo and invite the community to provide feedback in early 2020.
Schematic design of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park will wrap up in the following months, followed by the beginning of design development in 2020. The community is encouraged to stay tuned for information about upcoming engagement opportunities in early 2020 to provide feedback on preliminary concepts from SBP and hear project updates from the design team.
The project team’s goal is to break ground in 2022, with a completion date in 2024.
More information on Imagine LaSalle is available online.