Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park Buffalo
Building on the community outreach effort led by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute, MVVA is transforming LaSalle Park into a world-class park that celebrates the life of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. The 100-acre site is one of the largest waterfront parks in Buffalo and is located where the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers meet Lake Erie, only ten minutes from downtown. Although the existing park’s sports facilities, event pavilion, “Barkyard” dog park, pool, and skate plaza are beloved by the community, they are underused and isolated by a highway. The seawall, fields, and other infrastructure are reaching the end of their lifespan, and the park experiences flooding after extreme weather events.
MVVA’s design replaces most of the seawall with a resilient and complex shoreline that will provide habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife, while reducing flooding and giving residents a new way of experiencing Lake Erie, including an area to safely launch small boats.
A new pedestrian bridge across Interstate 190, designed by Schlaich Bergermann Partner, will connect the city to the site and welcome visitors to the reimagined park. Upon crossing the bridge, views to Lake Erie will be framed by the Great Lawn’s rolling topography, which will wind through the park and create flexible spaces for strolling, picnicking, sledding, and all kinds of informal activities.
Expanded pedestrian and bike paths will connect the park to regional and statewide trail systems. Approximately 2,000 newly planted trees will provide shade, wind cover, and seasonal interest. The new design will upgrade the existing sports fields and maintain their key community function, while adding a Play Garden inspired by Buffalo’s industrial history and Great Lakes ecology. Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park will be a regional waterfront destination and a hub for its diverse surrounding neighborhoods, setting a new standard for the design of public space in Western New York.