Aerial rendering of the Skyway in Buffalo, NY.

Aim for the Sky: The Buffalo Skyway Corridor Competition

View Top Submissions

The Buffalo Skyway Corridor Competition challenges the nation’s top urban designers, economists, planners and architects to reimagine the corridor—stretching four miles from  downtown to Lackawanna—drawing inspiration from the community’s unique waterfront landscape, responding to the community’s collective vision for the City, building upon current momentum and significant investments, and acknowledging the region’s rich history while ensuring that past mistakes are not repeated.

Teams were challenged to share solutions that could be implemented with a degree of affordability, feasibility and technical achievability (particularly regarding accommodating anticipated traffic) and superior design quality. The top submission will be awarded a $100,000 prize, second place will be awarded $50,000 and third place will be awarded $25,000.  We received over 100 submissions under Part 1 of the Competition – which included “summary-level” submissions that were screened against the “affordable, feasible, and achievable” criteria to get to 20 teams that were invited to submit final presentation boards and proposals under Part 2 of the Competition.   

Sixteen of the top 20 teams submitted final proposals --- and are now available to view online.

1. Skyway 2.0

This submission bills itself as a “future-proof design for the skyway corridor.”  It envisages a gradual development of the area through a systematic implementation of complementary stages that address the Inner Harbor, Outer Harbor North and Outer Harbor South.  The Skyway Bridge remains in this proposal and is gradually used for a light rail extension.  In addition, other pedestrian bridge connections would be implemented between the Inner and Outer Harbor areas.   

2. Skyway River Loop (Second Place)

This submission says it will “Keep the Skyway and reinforce the heart of Buffalo.”  It proposes keeping the Skyway, lighting and painting it, and reframing it for new use.  Skyway River Loop is about making connections to the existing neighborhoods and supporting their further development and use.  A bridge connection to the Outer Harbor would be restored at Michigan Avenue; various underutilized ramps from the Skyway would be removed in selected areas to allow for new development, and a series of open space and public building investments would be made to support access and infill development.

3. Olmsted Remixed

The vision of this proposal is preserving the “Skyway’s capacity for ships, trucks, and commuters while creating new waterfront connections for recreational users.”  It calls for keeping the Skyway—and its traffic—high above the city’s shipping lanes and waterfront parks—and creating new multi-modal connections under and alongside it, as well as under a portion of I-190.  The proposal also calls for a new local lift bridge connecting Canalside to the Outer Harbor.

4. City of Lights: Re-View Our Waterfront (WINNER)

The concept for Skyway and Route 5 Corridor here is “actually quite simple; remove the barriers separating the City of Buffalo from its waterfront.”  Removal of the Skyway (Church Street to Prime Street) along with the access ramps makes 12 acres available for development in downtown and Canalside. The Skyway bridge over the Buffalo River would remain and be re-purposed as “Skyway Park,” an overlook/trail and sculptural element.  South of the bridge, the Skyway’s elevated expressway section would be removed, and the land redeveloped for mixed uses.

5. Queen City Harbor (Third Place)

This submission proposes a strategy that “capitalizes on this historic opportunity to remove the notorious ‘Skyway’ and extend the positive legacies of Buffalo’s artistic, cultural, and industrial past directly into an intelligent, beautiful, and ennobling future. This vision depends on a robust program of mixed use, and primarily residential, development in and around the Queen City Harbor.  It would repurpose a series of the Skyway’s concrete piers for solar and wind power generation structures.  A new double lift bridge would cross the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal at Main Street, and a series of dense, urbane infill projects would be realized near Canalside and on the Ship Canal portion of the Outer Harbor.

6. Rustbelt Resurgence

The main objective of this design proposal is to “connect the inner and outer harbor regions without the need for individualized transportation, while comfortably providing all aspects of the inhabitant’s everyday needs.”  This vision promotes active mobility and transit-oriented development and involves a series of phased access improvements—such a light rail extensions and an autonomous bus system on the Outer Harbor—with the goal of essentially eliminating the need for the Skyway by the end of its useful lifespan has run its course in 2040.  The Skyway’s concrete piers would then be used to support a tramway to the Outer Harbor.

7. Sky Scape

This proposal for “Buffalo’s New Front Porch” reuses the existing infrastructure as a way of activating and better connecting an existing waterfront.  It totally reimagines the Skyway as a space for the public and a car-free multimodal corridor, incorporating the structure into new facilities such as, but not limited to offices, a rooftop garden, a new hotel with restaurants, a skyway bar, retail stores, and a 400-seat theatre complex for lectures, theatre, and concerts.  This plan terminates the Skyway at a redesigned Outer Harbor Drive interchange and provides the opportunity for revitalization of several arterial routes leading to downtown Buffalo.

8. Highways to Parkways

This plan envisions the Skyway Corridor to be “redeveloped through multiple mixed-use neighborhoods, each with an intimate relationship with public open space by designing with nature and driven by new modern infrastructure networks.”  The plan removes the Skyway, adds a new double-lift bicycle bridge over the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal at Main Street, a replacement to the Michigan Avenue lift bridge over the Ship Canal, and replaces a portion of I-190 with an Olmsted parkway.

9. Olmsted Parkway

This proposal is inspired by Olmsted’s vision of connecting his earlier parks to the north.  This vision replaces the elevated expressway portion of the Buffalo Skyway with an Olmsted Parkway, Olmsted Park, and real estate development on land previously occupied or made less usable by the Skyway.  The Olmsted Parkway would replace the Buffalo Skyway –and in some segments also Fuhrmann Boulevard—from Ridge Road north to the Buffalo River.  A new Buffalo River lift bridge would be constructed to connect the new parkway on the Outer Harbor with Main Street.

10. The Sapphire Necklace

The centerpiece of this proposal is to remove the Skyway and Rte. 5 entirely from I-190 through the Outer Harbor and south to Tifft. With it fully gone and replaced by a “grand boulevard along Ohio Street, the entire corridor will transition to being some of the city’s premier living, entertainment and recreational venues with nature preserves, havens for fish and other water life.”

11. REC – Customize Your Experience

REC stands for Recreation, Experience and Circulation.  This plan strengthens the value of the space and its relations with its environment through flexible and sustainable design solutions.  It promotes repurposing the Buffalo Skyway in a manner “designed holistically to elaborate contemporary approaches, integrate the latest technologies and preserve the site’s unique cultural and natural values as well as Buffalo identity.”  The Skyway structure itself would be redesigned to become an attraction in itself, with features added such as landscaped walkways, festival structures, suspended offices, galleries, and ateliers.

12. Making Sense of the Outer Harbor

This proposal envisions “major improvements with minimal change to the transportation network while making sense of the Outer Harbor though urban design.”   The essential elements include the removal of the bridge and elevated portions of the Skyway, and construction of a new lift bridge extending from I 190 over the Buffalo River at Erie Street and connecting to an at-grade “Hamburg Turnpike” limited access expressway, with beneficial consequences for development and reimagining the area.

13. Vision for Skyway Corridor and relocated NY Route 5 highway

As part of this vision, traffic that currently travels on the Skyway Corridor as far south as the Union Ship Canal will be diverted onto a new highway and Fuhrmann Boulevard will be reduced to one traffic lane in each direction within the Corridor.  The Skyway bridge structure would remain standing and be adapted to new purposes for the next few years, beyond which its long-term future may be determined by a decision process.

14. Buffalo Up!

This plan’s vision is to create a sustainable transport system for the Skyway Corridor that makes a major contribution to the corridor’s livability by replacing the existing highway. This system would apply intelligent transport systems (ITS) strategies to existing routes thus increasing their efficiency and build a sustainable transport network through the corridor.  Over time, the Skyway would be phased out, first by reducing its lane capacity to provide pedestrian/bicycle access, and later fully removing vehicular access through adding a Michigan Avenue lift bridge and other pedestrian connections.

15. Erie Green

This plan involves a complete redesign of the Buffalo Skyway from a limited access highway to an integrated urban boulevard employing a multitude of transportation modes.  Multi-use paths will both run parallel to major roadways and meander throughout green space. The plan also envisions a new multi-modal bridge crossing between Downtown Buffalo and the Outer Harbor.

16. Buffalo SkyBeach

This submission plans to put Buffalo on the map as a tourist destination.  This year-round venue will also provide a “strong boost to tourism from nearby Toronto, and will give the ‘snowbirds,’ who traditionally fly south for the winter, a slice of Miami Beach in Buffalo as a convenient alternative destination.”  It calls for a post-industrial transformation of the Skyway structure to a glass-enclosed structure (a “linear dome”), creating a programmable civic space full of tropical plants, beaches, recreation, art, and cafes, all enabled by sustainable technology.