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With projects underway, time to clean up small features of Canalside

October 4, 2012

Since the grain elevators are now expecting a slight makeover, what comes next for the waterfront? Considering the projects that are already in progress there is a somewhat vacant hole as to what the next project may be.

With the faux historic canal construction in full swing, along with the Webster Block and One Canalside building projects, the inner harbor is nearly at full capacity regarding the projects that are underway. For Canalside, the only area that remains untouched, to this point, are the “functional” lawns that can be sold as parcels to interested developers.

As for the Outer Harbor, the Union Ship Canal, Gallagher Pier and other boardwalk work has either been completed or upgraded. In addition, a ride with a friend last Friday showed additional progress being made on another piece of park space in that area. The park should certainly add to the momentum already being enjoyed along the Outer Harbor.

Still, I ask what the next step for each of these areas will be. The Outer Harbor certainly seems destined to be populated with parks and other forms of unobtrusive public access. Those hoping for a pie-in-the-sky type of development or project on that space are likely out of luck. If the Outer Harbor is indeed destined to be an emerald string of parkland, let it be. Develop the bike and walking paths along with the other accouterment that goes along with developing these types of parks. Toss in some centralized spaces that will draw crowds (see: Millennium Park) so that it isn’t simply mile after mile of the same thing.

The Outer Harbor is a massive piece of land and quite a bit of it will serve well in a park setting. However, recreating Delaware Park wouldn’t be in the city’s best interest. Put in a permanent concert venue along that space in addition to artwork or things that will draw crowds. Basically, provide a reason for people to use the space without needing full development of the land.

Hopefully by keeping the Outer Harbor reserved for more park space than anything else, more attention will be paid to Canalside by those who will develop the area and provide actual things to do.

Make no mistake, “slower, dumber, cheaper” did not bring about the work at One Canalside or the HARBORcenter project. As Alan Bedenko said, the space occupied by Liberty Hound was there long before the criminal misuse of money that Fred Kent demanded.

In fact, I have it on good authority that Terry Pegula’s involvement with Canalside (see: Terry’s Turf) came as a result the lack of progress with certain parcels in the area. If anything, most of the success being witnessed at Canalside has come despite the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” mantra. Sorry, Donn.

The next step forward at Canalside is somewhat unknown at this point. There are no plans in place for additional retail or even restaurant space and that likely has to do with the pending construction of both One Canalside and HARBORcenter. Once there is a better idea of who will be occupying the space on the ground floor of each, there will be a much better idea of who else may end up searching for space at other locations throughout Canalside.

A few things that can still be taken care of may actually fall under the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” mantra.

First, is it too much to ask for the signs throughout Canalside to be uniform? The Commercial Slip signage looks cool and dynamic, as does the interpretive signage throughout the area. However, the street signs look out of place and cheap since they stand out from their surroundings. As my friend and fellow waterfront champion Andrew Kulyk says, let’s get some “Ye Olde Canal district” signs swapped in for the awful blue and white DOT signs that currently mark the area.

In addition, it is high time that the former Aud Metro Station comes down. This is a cause that Andrew has taken up on his own and his expertise with regard to the Metro Rail serves as far better than anything I might be able to contribute. Read his take on the station needing to come down at Artvoice.

The station itself is beyond an eyesore and will soon be sandwiched by two cornerstone pieces of the entire district. By the time the canals and One Canalside have been completed, this station will need to be wiped off the slate. The colors and décor scream early 80s and the lack of upkeep screams underfunded and poorly utilized light rail system. That’s not to say the Metro Rail is useless, because it isn’t. The main issue is that all of the stations look brutal and are well over due for an upgrade.

Obviously, as Andrew points out in his article, eliminating the Aud Station and improving the Special Events station is the most ideal solution. But that seems like something that might be a difficult task for an agency whose main focus is selling their land on the Outer Harbor.

Keeping things relatively simple in the immediate future isn’t a bad thing and those two small changes would provide a much better general atmosphere around the entire arena district and Canalside neighborhood as a whole. Add that with some of the other ancillary improvements, like lighting the grain elevators, and the small, atmosphere changing improvements and there will only be big picture additions to be made to Canalside.

 

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