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Consulting for less progress

June 14, 2012

By the time the historically aligned, 18-inch deep canals are complete at Canalside, over $300,000 will have been spent on consultants for the developing district.

I’d consult that these lawns turn into buildings.

Buffalo Rising, yesterday reported that Biederman Redevelopment Ventures will be contracted for no more than $253,455 to serve as a public space consultant for ECHDC. Tack that onto the $100,000+ paid to power point and Google image touting Fred Kent.

Here are a few cherry picked quotes from the BRO article:

…the consultant will expand the Canalside vision and activation plan from the Central Wharf area to the former Memorial Auditorium block. The purpose is to further enhance Canalside as a regional destination, attract a diverse and growing audience, and support the public amenities currently under construction.

BRV’s scope of work will include leading a public workshop to solicit ideas from the general public; identifying key issues, opportunities, partners, audiences and technical items (such as availability of power, lighting, ADA access); developing principles and themes that describe each environment, their inter-relationships, as well as the former Aud Block’s connection to Canalside; developing a program plan of activities for Canalside on the Aud Block for 2013; and developing two signature Canalside ideas (e.g., physical amenities, events, festivals, programs) for summer 2013 and winter 2013, among other tasks.

The article goes on to state that the canal construction will serve as a key area for development under this consultation along with the functional lawns that border the Central Wharf.

It is all fine and dandy that ECHDC identified the need to bring in someone with so much experience in operating public areas; but at what point will ECHDC actually take action on actually developing Canalside? Hell, it took Terry Pegula getting fed up with looking at a windblown patch of dirt to get the rest of the lawns in place down there. I suppose he will need to get angry about the lack of buildings before anything is ever actually built.

BRV is supposed to host a workshop to solicit ideas from the public. Unless they bar all of the loony toons from gaining access, BRV will be peddling bocce ball, hula hoops and hop-scotch as their big ideas for Canalside. Remember, public access and lighter, quicker and cheaper is the wave of the future.

I do trust that BRV will be capable of identifying the need for a uniform look in terms of lighting, signage and other amenities. After all, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that the look and feel of the district should reflect – as Andrew Kulyk puts it – Ye Olde Canal District.

The most intriguing portion of this announcement is that BRV is expected to come up with a pair of “signature ideas” for summer and winter of 2013. Now, that has the potential to be as big as actual development or as flimsy as the crowdsourced public programming that is currently be touted as progress.

If this is to be accepted as an actual step forward, then BRV needs to come up with something more than a plan centered around grass, lawn chairs and little else. Perhaps they can move forward with a previous plan for providing public bathrooms and showers for boaters using the docks. Better yet, they could put the bathrooms in as part of a Canal-era spec building to be built along one of the cobblestone streets. The building could be constructed as a two-story, retail ready project with the potential for lofts or studio apartments on the second floor.

Including apartments in such a plan is probably too big of a step forward. But putting in a building that would not only provide some additional amenities for boaters, but one that would eliminate the need for port-a-pottys on site is definitely a step in the right direction.

Ideally this building would have space available for ground floor retail and would provide a permanent space for BFLO Harbor Kayak and the Spirit of Buffalo. Actual retail space would potentially allow BFLO Harbor Kayak to expand to rent bikes or scooters in addition to the services they already offer. I would even provide enough space for the Spirit of Buffalo, Moondance Cat and Miss Buffalo to share in a single location. Basically it would be like an airport car rental desk but for harbor cruises.

Ted Black recently expressed the need for Buffalo to put its best foot forward in terms of development. The Sabres are set to be a major player in bringing people to this area on a yearly basis and Black knows that a repeat of the 2011 World Juniors embarrassment cannot be in the cards.

Time after time there is another study reviewing another policy that will institute a new direction for Canalside. There has been more than a decade of waffling and the only thing the residents of Buffalo have is a hot dog stand and a few lawns that might occupy you for 30-45 minutes. The waterfront we deserve is still a long way off.

BRV has the potential to provide Canalside with the positive momentum needed for the project, but they cannot accept frivolous ideas as progress. It is time for things to actually be built at Canalside, too much time and money has been wasted for any other conclusion to be reached by this study.

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