Building on the innovative work of the Reimagine the Canals Task Force, a wide-ranging initiative will transform the iconic Erie Canal with future-oriented uses and development, supported by BuroHappold’s work as lead consultant

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Governor Cuomo has announced an unprecedented initiative for the Erie Canal to reignite economic and environmental resiliency across New York State.

BuroHappold, a world-class global practice creating sustainable solutions for cities, infrastructure, buildings, campuses and cities that consulted to the initiative, applauds the New York State Governor’s proposal to repurpose the Erie Canal to grow regional tourism, reduce flooding, improve irrigation, restore wetlands and support outdoor recreation such as fishing. The proposals unveiled in the Governor’s annual State of the State address set the course for a 21st-century New York State Canal System. BuroHappold was honored to serve as lead consultant to facilitate and support the Reimagine the Canals Task Force, which developed and evaluated many of the proposals within the Governor’s initiative. The Task Force issued its full set of findings to the Governor this week in the Reimagine the Canals Task Force Report, released this week.

According to BuroHappold, the Erie Canal is the backbone of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s broad-ranging initiative including economic development, resiliency, community revitalization, ecological restoration, and opportunities for new tourism and development. The Governor’s address recommended a $300 million investment over the next five years with a first phase of $165 million to begin this year.

“This announcement represents an innovative vision for the enhancement of the 350-mile-long historic waterway into a 21st-century waterway and recreation corridor,” says Alice Shay, an associate in BuroHappold Engineering’s Cities practice. “As leader of the Task Force, BuroHappold helped shape the initiative’s guiding principles of bolstering environmental resilience, restoring natural ecosystems, and sparking economic development for canalside communities across New York,” adds shivam Jumani, a senior consultant in the Cities practice.

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st-century needs,” said Governor Cuomo (official release here). “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail, grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

The Reimagine the Canals Task Force builds on the innovative ideas generated through the Reimagine the Canals competition that BuroHappold’s Cities group ran last year for the New York Power Authority (NYPA), which oversees the Canal Corporation. The competition led to the implementation of Erie Armada, a three-day brewing industry festival and boat race, as well as Canalside Pocket Neighborhoods, a new model for waterfront living.

BuroHappold’s Cities team is renowned for devising innovative new uses for large-scale public infrastructure and industrial districts, or “stranded assets,” such as canals, rail lines and port facilities. “Over the past two decades, BuroHappold has consulted with public authorities and private organizations across the country on projects that creatively reimagine underperforming infrastructure into people-friendly public spaces that generate jobs, improve the environment, provide recreation, and draw residents and visitors,” says Adam Friedberg, associate principal in the BuroHappold Cities team. Examples include BuroHappold’s strategic and technical advisory for the High Line, Jamaica Bay Gateway National Recreation Area, Fort Tilden Historic District, the Lower Manhattan streetscape, the Chicago Pedway, Richmond Bridge Park, and the Changing Course ideas competition. BuroHappold Cities has developed a suite of strategic approaches and analytic solutions for the adaptive reuse of infrastructure ripe for transformation. “As technology and the economy transform, these assets present an opportunity to reinvest in public infrastructure to improve quality of life and enhance the vitality of communities,” says BuroHappold’s Shay.

The development and investment work for the Erie Canal — and the 225 communities its waterways pass through – will begin in 2020 with a $100 million economic development fund to invest in canalside districts and a separate $65 million investment in solutions to help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area. The remaining $135 million of the plan’s funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutions related to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration, according to state officials.

The $100 million economic development fund will include projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canalside attractions and activities. The BuroHappold team consulted on the visioning for these iconic capital projects. Roughly $25 million of that will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects including a pedestrian bridge, a hospitality destination, interactive cultural installations, a whitewater sports course, and the canalside pocket neighborhoods.

As described in the Governor’s State of the State address, the Reimagine the Canals initiative presents an unprecedented opportunity for economic revitalization and environmental restoration. The vision and implementation of this initiative will demonstrate a new paradigm for our adaptive reuse and management of large-scale public infrastructure, adds BuroHappold.

For interviews and high-resolution images, contact Alex Abarbanel-Grossman at C.C. Sullivan for BuroHappold Engineering and its Cities team, 646-838-1033 or alex@ccsullivan.com.

The New York Governor’s announcement press release can be accessed in the governor.ny.gov pressroom, here.

About BuroHappold

BuroHappold Engineering is an international, integrated engineering consultancy operating in 22 locations worldwide, with 60

partners and over 1,700 employees including some of the world’s leading consulting engineers. For over 40 years we’ve been

building our reputation for delivering creative, value-led building and city solutions for an ever-changing world.

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