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Further additions coming to Buffalo’s waterfront

April 4, 2012

After a decade of announcements, renderings and eventual letdowns with regard to most development around Canalside, the ECHDC went out and just did something. I don’t hate it either.

There has been some discussion over the past year about putting more public art in and around the waterfront, specifically regarding putting murals on the Connecting Terminal elevator and lighting up a number of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River. Now it appears that the ECHDC also plan on lighting up the Skyway, too.

The story (link above) came out with little fanfare as the lighting process seems to be in the preliminary testing phase. However, I’m glad the ECHDC decided to take this step without giving those against the move time to whine, complain and sue. According to a first hand account, the setup is very basic at this point. More from friend and 2ITB reader Andrew Kulyk:

Light sources are on portable stands and reflect onto the supports. I assume the permanent lighting will be somehow affixed to the concrete itself. Three supports are lit up in the testing phase and change colors. Looks totally awesome.

Only a few support legs are lit at this point. That is ok, obviously those in charge have decided that if the Skyway won’t be leaving anytime soon, let it become part of the neighborhood. The Peace Bridge looks fantastic bathed in changing LED lights, I don’t expect the Skyway to turn into the Golden Gate, but the LEDs will at least help turn a hulking barrier into something less obstructive than before.

I still take issue with the fact that the ECHDC continues to work backwards in their development of Canalside. I suppose the definition of Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper reads something like this: A stupid, backwards approach to developing a key parcel of downtown property.

The deck chairs and functional lawns are nice, as is the idea of lighting the Skyway. However, these should be final flourishes, not harbingers for larger development throughout the district. Call me crazy, but I doubt that establishments like Dinosaur BBQ or major retailers have deck chairs, placemaking and functional lawns listed as key checkpoints for scouting new locations.

But I’m not attempting to take away from what is a great idea that shows the ECHDC still has some forward thinkers who aren’t just concerned with keeping the Canalside district mired in the early 1900s.

The Donovan Building is a big step, now there needs to be another. I think that lighting the Skyway was a necessary decision; I just hope one of these small steps eventually becomes the tipping point for true development to take hold.

***

Another story to break this week regarding the water front is that there will be another concert operator putting on shows down by the water. The Buffalo News reported that the NFTA came to an agreement to allow an operator put on shows down near the former site of The Pier.

The News article explains some of the basics about the agreement, such as the cost for tickets and some of the agreements the NFTA has with Funtime After Dark. What isn’t explained is how the setup for these shows will go. The operator is mentioned to have interest in a 5,000 to 10,000 seat venue (which the waterfront desperately needs) but there is no mention is that is the goal for these shows. There also wasn’t much information given as to who has been booked, likely because they’re too far out. However, the lack of information on the venue itself makes me wonder if a handful of concerts are going to be thrown on the outer harbor with a temporary stage and just standing room for admission. There needs to be a more concrete plan than that.

This site is close enough to Route 5 to connect with the city with relative ease. It is also too far away from any other actual entertainment district. There are no bars or restaurants close by this area to adequately serve those who will be attending the show. The construction of the harbor bridge will do a lot for this venue, effectively placing it across the street from Canalside, the Arena and the Cobblestone Parking District. However, the completion date of the bridge is still a long way off.

Adding another downtown(ish) concert series is a great plan, especially if the promoter is serious about bringing in big acts. Too many major shows are played at Darien Lake and the city misses out on the influx of people looking for an abundance of wobbly pops and pub fare before and after shows. Snagging a few big acts to compliment and already successful Harbor concert series would be a very good thing for the city. Of course, permanent venues for these shows will be necessary. The operative word being permanent.

I like using Cleveland as an example for this argument. Up until last year, Live Nation operated a pair of outdoor concert venues along the river downtown. One (Time Warner Cable Amphitheatre) has since been closed, but the other (Jacobs Pavilion) is still in operation. These are both venues that hold 5,000+ and are capable of attracting big acts. I’m confident that if Buffalo followed suit, the summer concert scene downtown would be terrific.

Obviously plopping a venue down at Canalside may be a challenge, but there is space in various areas throughout the Inner Harbor. The former Pier site is much more conducive and I would love to see plans to put a permanent venue in after the run of shows this summer.

Based on the improvements made to Route 5 and the assumption that the harbor bridge will be built, I have to say that a permanent venue in that location would do wonders for entertainment in the city and the overall development of Buffalo’s waterfront.

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