Running from Canalside to the Buffalo River near the Tesla Plant, across some of the oldest sections of the city, are a series of vegetation-overgrown small hills once connected by a massive rail line. The top 25 ideas submitted to transform that old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western rail line were unveiled to a standing-room only crowd Wednesday night at the M&T Center.
The crowd turned out to hear about the plans to transform the former DL&W - locally known as the Dell - and size up large renderings submitted as part of a contest sponsored by the Western New York Land Conservancy. The winners will now get serious design work over the summer before the Conservancy comes back to the public for more input.
"They love that it looks like a forest. It looks like this overgrown hill. It looks like a forested hill right in their neighborhood and they live right downtown. So they love that aspect of it and they want us to keep that aspect of it," said Conservancy Deputy Director Jajean Rose-Burney. "I think that's great because that's what the Land Conservancy wants to do. We like the forest look. We want it to be a place where people can go and experience it but in a natural setting and at the same time right in the middle of the city."
First Ward resident Mary Ann Needham likes the idea of keeping a park-like corridor.
"We're really excited about the potential project," Needham said. "We live in the area. The old DL&W railway line has been part of our neighborhood for a long time and it would be great to see it come back in some kind of a useable, citizen-friendly way."
The Conservancy's plan is to hire an expert to start doing serious design this summer and spend about a year on blueprints and design before coming back to the citizens. Meanwhile, some are already planning trips to New York City and elsewhere to understand re-purposed rail lines.
Toward the lower end of Manhattan, there is an elevated railroad line that sat abandoned for decades until people decided it could become a neighborhood asset. Today it is called the High Line: a long strip of green that has become a tourist destination where people walk, relax, play and be entertained.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo mentioned the High Line as an option for the Skyway during his visit to Buffalo State College Wednesday. Locally, people have looked at its success and decided the Dell could also become a highly attractive green space, filled with wildlife, vegetation and visitors.
Gail Wells knows New York's High Line and said Buffalo can have one that is better.
"The natural habitat is more preserved and I think that we have the beautiful Great Lakes and we just have a lot of people here who are dedicated to native plants and natural habitat," Wells said. "I just think that what we do - we're the Garden City, Gardenwalk...yay, yay - there's a lot that we will do that will bring people here."