BUFFALO, N.Y. — The former LaSalle Park is now the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, and on Tuesday, a big groundbreaking celebration gave us an update on how its transformation is going.
The Ralph C. Wilson Junior Foundation announced a $50 million commitment to the project in 2018, now nearly four years later, funding from other groups has brought the total up to $110 million.
"It's not our vision, it's not the Wilson vision, it's not the Mayor's vision, it's all of our vision," said Bob Shibley, the Dean of the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning.
After four years, and a focus group visiting 21 parks in other cities for inspiration, the community came together to break ground at Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.
"For Buffalo, if you're used to hearing about projects, sometimes they start, but they don't get completed which would have been a problem here. I thought 50 was enough, right? Clearly, it wasn't, especially as we got more involved in it. The one thing they kept from that point to now is having the community engaged with this park," said Marnetta Malcolm, Ralph Wilson Park Commission Board Member.
It is a $110 million project with private and public funding. Construction begins later this summer transforming the old LaSalle Park, 99 acres on Buffalo's waterfront, into a unique space for all to enjoy.
"Ralph loved it here, I loved it here, and I'm so happy that this canvas, this blank canvas is basically here for us," said Mary Wilson, Ralph C. Wilson's widow.
Phase One includes a pedestrian bridge to make it easier for people to walk to the park, the updating of several baseball and softball fields, and rehabbing the inlet area to protect the shoreline.
The entire project is expected to be done in late 2025.
"This is going to be such a beautiful place to come and bring communities together which Ralph would love," said Mary Wilson. "It's going to be one of the top parks in the world, and it will be talked about, and it's in the backdrop of downtown Buffalo. I mean how magnificent is that?"