The Niagara River Greenway Commission through the City of Niagara Falls Host Community has awarded the Aquarium of Niagara $250,000 to create a place-based outdoor improvement project that will develop a transformative entryway in front of the Aquarium while strengthening the connection with the Niagara Falls State Park and Greenway Corridor.
The concept for the “Whirlpool Commons” project was made possible by the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway, which had previously separated the Aquarium from other destinations, attractions, and amenities in the downtown district.
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “With this new Aquarium of Niagara project, we’re seeing how Governor Cuomo’s efforts to remove the Robert Moses Parkway are revitalizing Niagara Falls and allowing residents and visitors to reclaim the waterfront. Congratulations on the creation of an outdoor welcome plaza that will further reimagine the aquarium and transform the surrounding parkland. “
Whirlpool Commons will create a lively hub for tourists and neighbors while taking advantage of the new trails created after the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway. Features will provide leisure space for visitors complete with shade structures and tiered seating designed to echo the landscape of the greater Niagara Gorge.
“Whirlpool Commons is an important milestone in the advancement of the Aquarium’s strategic initiatives.” said Gary Siddall, President and CEO of the Aquarium of Niagara. “This project is part of a concentrated effort to provide increased accessibility and movement while drawing visitors to the multitude of new experiences offered by the Aquarium.”
The project advances the missions of both the Aquarium and the Niagara River Greenway Commission by connecting local environmental spaces and offering a new outdoor attraction that is rife with collaborative opportunities. The completed project will prioritize enhanced educational programming to further the Aquarium’s conservation priorities.
“We are excited to partner with the Aquarium of Niagara on their plaza development, which is positioned at the head of our spectacular new Gorgeview Shoreline Trail segment heading north and connecting City of Niagara Falls and New York State Parks to Gorge attractions,” said Greg Stevens, Executive Director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission. “It will be exciting to see how this project will launch the Aquarium into more outdoor ecological education for our youth.”
Whirlpool Commons will also strengthen the Aquarium’s position as a revered destination in the Niagara Falls community and underscores the organization’s role in the revitalization of the greater Niagara region. The plaza will enhance the overall Niagara Falls experience and encourage guests slow down and explore all that the area has to offer. As a nexus for ecological tours, hikes, and programming focused on the region’s rich ecological history and heritage, the project is likely to spur more outdoor development and economic viability.
“I’m proud to congratulate the Aquarium of Niagara on their continued efforts to grow as an attraction here in the City of Niagara Falls, drawing both residents and visitors alike with their latest and greatest exhibits,” said Mayor Robert Restaino. “This new outdoor opportunity will add yet another way to connect visitors of the Falls to the Aquarium, while also providing yet another unique outdoor space for events and visitors of the Aquarium. I am excited for the City to be a part of their continued efforts to update and innovate the Aquariums exhibits as we move into 2021 and the future.”
The addition of Whirlpool Commons advances the Aquarium of Niagara’s newly-created strategic plan, which strives to enhance the guest experience and encourages the community to embrace the Aquarium as a place where they can interact with educational programming and conservation initiatives and become inspired to make a difference for aquatic life.
The Aquarium is embracing an aggressive timeline and hopes to begin construction immediately. Clark Patterson Lee has been designated as the project designer.
Michael Mistriner, Vice President of Clark Patterson Lee’s Buffalo office said, “This project is a natural extension of the Aquarium to further integrate into the greenspace development along the rim of the gorge.”
Project completion is expected by Summer 2021.