Updated: August 26, 2012, 12:18 AMNORTH TONAWANDA — Plans to clean up polluted land and develop open waterfront space into restaurants, stores and places to live — and kayak — is getting nearer to noticeable change along the Niagara River.
"I think that's the future of North Tonawanda," City Engineer Dale Marshall said. He echoed the promise local officials see in preliminary ideas for transforming the city's collection of waterfront sites abandoned by industry.
Developments in an assortment of plans include the city's grant applications for money for projects for next summer.
The state is set to announce in September whether North Tonawanda can have $150,000 for new kayak boat launches and $300,000 toward dock and marina improvements on River Road. Space for about 70 boats would be next to the new Lumberjacks restaurant being renovated and scheduled to open for the start of boating season.
In the next few of months, the Common Council expects to vote on spending a $423,000 grant the city won this spring, said Michael Zimmerman, planning and development coordinator for the Lumber City Development Corp.
As soon as official paperwork is complete, the city's economic development agency intends to hire the engineering and planning concern Bergmann Associates, Zimmerman said. Its job: Continue its cleanup planning work of the past few years and start a new phase.
The firm would develop new zoning rules and restoration requirements in preparation for the 2014 pollution cleanup along the River Road corridor and Tonawanda Island, a state-designated "Brownfield Opportunity Area."
Eventually, Mayor Robert Ortt would like to see more development projects unfold at the 80-acre Tonawanda Island. Now it holds the city's water treatment plant, Shores Restaurant and three companies: Smith Boys Marina, Taylor Devices and International Fiber. Preliminary Bergmann plans show there's room for more — pedestrian paths, loft-style living areas, offices and additional eateries.
"We're one of the few cities that have an island in our municipality," Ortt said. "Tonawanda Island is the next Niagara development opportunity. . . . Everyone that I talk to wants to be on the water."