Rails to Trails

Competition opens to redesign Buffalo’s old elevated rail line

East Landscape Architecture News
The Western New York Land Conservancy calls for architects and designers to submit proposals for a landscape design covering Buffalo's elevated DL&W rail line. (Abby Songin)
The Western New York Land Conservancy calls for architects and designers to submit proposals for a landscape design covering Buffalo's elevated DL&W rail line. (Abby Songin)

Across the country, cities are reimagining old industrial landscapes as innovative parklands and restorative ecologies as a way to connect urban dwellers with nature and protect the environment. A new design ideas competition in Buffalo, New York, aims to revitalize the city’s 1.5-mile elevated DL&W rail corridor as a multiuse urban nature trail and greenway. The project is set not only to spur economic development for Buffalo but to reshape the city, becoming a local attraction much like the Toronto’s Bentway or Atlanta’s Beltline.

Organized by the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC), the competition invites architects, designers, landscape architect, urban planners, and artists to submit visionary concepts of the corridor as a nature-filled connector for downtown Buffalo, its waterfront, and the surrounding historic neighborhoods. The project is backed by several major sponsors, including M&T Bank and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Legacy Funds, a group that’s part of the late Buffalo Bills owner’s namesake foundation which, just last month, pledged to invest $200 million in both Buffalo and Detroit’s parks and trails systems.

Western New York Land Conservancy rail line map of Buffalo

The 1.5-mile-long site is colored in red. (Courtesy Western New York Land Conservancy)

The corridor is owned by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and has long been a focal point of potential redevelopment for residents and city officials alike. Last year, the WNYLC published a community vision for the site that will guide its future design.

“After listening to the community’s hopes for the DL&W corridor, we are excited to give designers from Western New York and around the world a chance to show us how they would bring those hopes to life,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the WNYLC in a statement. “This spring we will share the designs with the community and ask the community what they think of the ideas, what they like, and what they would do differently.”

The competition will be judged by a jury of architects, educators, planners, and consultants including representatives from the University of Buffalo, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Friends of the High Line. The proposals will be unveiled online next spring and will also be featured in several public exhibitions in Buffalo. Three winners, including the jury’s favorite as well as the community’s pick, will receive monetary awards ranging from $1,000 to $7,500.

To enter the competition, participants must register for free by emailing dlw@wnylc.org. For more information on submission guidelines and the competition brief, see here.

An optional site visit for applicants will be held on January 4, 2019, and submissions are due February 15.

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