Building Buffalo Podcast – Episode 2

In episode two of the Building Buffalo Podcast, Tom and I discuss the gondola project that has been gaining press and momentum as of late and the need for greater focus on projects throughout the city that need more attention. We also spend some time talking about the negative impact obstructionists have had on progress in WNY and where we’re headed despite the actions of a loud minority.

Building Buffalo Podcast - Episode 2 by Buildingbuffalopodcast on Mixcloud

 

https://www.mixcloud.com/BuildingBuffaloPodcast/building-buffalo-podcast-episode-2/

 

 

ECHDC should consider art to compliment grain elevator lighting project

Canalside proper isn’t the only area of Buffalo’s waterfront getting dressed up with art. The Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator will be lit up this summer (maybe fall?) as part of Erie Canal Harbor Development Company’s plan to light the grain elevators up and down the Buffalo River.

Exactly when the rest of the elevators will be lit is anyone’s guess, however. After ECHDC approved the original master plan to light the elevators and bridges along the river, it was later announced that only the Connecting Terminal Elevator would be getting the lighting treatment which was disappointing despite the impressive capabilities that the project will have.

While we wait to see if ECHDC will change their course thanks to the Ohio Street streetscape project and increased interest in that corridor, the Connecting Terminal will be lit this year. Original reports pointed to July 4th as the unveiling date but it is expected to be pushed closer to the fall at this point.

It’s about time that the Connecting Terminal Elevator was list. It’s a hulking figure along the waterfront and it needs to be changed from a looming eyesore into something that compliments the surrounding area. One thing I wish was considered was adorning the face of the elevator (on both sides) with a large mural as opposed to simply using the lighting project.

The lighting project will be a terrific installation and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the execution. But with sunset so late in the day in the summertime and the expected operating hours of the lighting itself being somewhat limited (especially in the summer months), the elevator will still be standing as nothing more than a grey monolith for most of the day.

Why not paint a mural on it that can be enjoyed during the day and at night? Continue reading

Silent Poets is a step forward for Canalside

Public art will continue to grow around Canalside this summer as Buffalo’s newest installation was put in yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Rising.

Silent Poets will reside at Canalside until late 2016, joining the ever popular Shark Girl and other public art pieces in the downtown park district. Meanwhile, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Company continues to inch towards completion of the lighting project on the Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator across the river.

After getting a chance to cruise by Silent Poets last night, I have to say they’re incredibly impressive. The addition of Silent Poets is a definitive step forward for Canalside as the area is still lacking any semblance of permanence as it pertains to activities and attractions. This new piece of art is also a much larger statement when compared to Shark Girl, which has its own level of whimsy but certainly isn’t the jaw-dropping installation that Canalside needs.

Shark Girl certainly has her own rightful place in the Canalside landscape. In fact, her new home near the re-watered, historically aligned canals is perfect. The sculpture is nestled in nicely in what should be a highly trafficked area which should eventually allow Shark Girl to be a tremendous compliment to the greater Aud Block development. We just aren’t there yet, which is why so much of the hubbub regarding her installation rubbed the wrong way.

Many of Canalside’s parcels are set for development (despite how it looks), which means they’re hardly available for a massive installation like Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate. That being said, the goal should be to provide a permanent installation that draws crowds no matter what the weather is like. As impressive as Silent Poets is, I’m not sure it does the trick. Continue reading

Streetscape projects are key for continued progress in pockets of downtown

Of the many thoughts I took away from Columbus – and trips to other cities for that matter – was how well unified many of their districts were. The areas of Columbus that I was able to spend a lot of time in were very impressive in look, atmosphere and layout.

As I explained in my original Buffalo and Columbus post, the Ohio city benefits greatly from having three thriving work-play districts that run up into each other. Short North, the North Market and the Arena District are basically all on the same street, which makes finding things to do a breeze.

Buffalo doesn’t exactly lack unified districts – Allentown and Elmwood Village immediately spring to mind – but I do feel like there are many parts of our city that are disjointed. Steps are being taken to amend this through streetscape and other improvement projects and I think we’re absolutely on the right track.

For example, a new streetscape project for Genesee Street between Oak and East Huron will not only cleanup and beautify a stretch of Genesee that runs by a number of key downtown properties, but it will also connect through to the Cars Sharing Main Street project. Projects like this are exactly the type of thing that should be targeted in other areas of the city. Continue reading

Building Buffalo Podcast – Episode 1

Tom (@husaria) and I got together for the first episode of the Building Buffalo Podcast. We suffered a slight glitch in the first half of the broadcast, so bear with us with the two separate links. We’ll make sure that it’s ironed out for the next episode.

This episode is slightly broad based with discussion on where we were and where we’re headed (as a region), the TMNT filming and the University at Buffalo. Please share any feedback or opinions on this episode. We look forward to building this into something that helps drive the conversation regarding Buffalo development and progress.

http://mixlr.com/buildingbuffalo/showreel/building-buffalo-episode-1/

http://mixlr.com/buildingbuffalo/showreel/building-buffalo-episode-1-part-2/

Bring Melt Bar and Grilled to Buffalo

Paging Buffalo developers and restaurateurs. There is an Ohio-based grilled cheese chain that must expand to downtown Buffalo.

Melt Bar and Grilled serves up all sorts of creative takes on grilled cheese sandwiches along with craft beers to residents of greater Cleveland and Columbus. I was lucky enough to choose the Short North Melt location for lunch during my recent jaunt to the Buckeye State and I’m so glad I did.

This is a sandwich served at Melt. Do you need any more evidence/
This is a sandwich served at Melt. Do you need any more evidence?

The Wet Hot Buffalo Chicken isn’t so much a grilled cheese sandwich as it is a chicken finger sub served on Texas Toast. Bonus points to Melt for serving the sandwich with blue cheese rather than ranch as the standard. Also, bonus points for having a chicken finger sandwich on the menu outside of WNY. Further bonus points for featuring a sandwich called The Dude Abides.

Melt’s food is terrific. All four of us got different sandwiches – including one breakfast grilled cheese – and we were all incredibly impressed. What adds to the entire experience is the eclectic atmosphere inside the restaurant itself.

You might say there’s something of a hippie vibe to the place, but I’m not sure that’s an entirely fair assessment. The bar fridges have old arcade game marquees on them and the menus are on the back of album covers. It’s a very cool spot that fits in beautifully in an urban setting; and Buffalo desperately needs to be on their radar.

One thing about this: they have to locate downtown. I realize spots near the Galleria or up in the Northtowns are the typical landing spots for chains, but this place screams downtown Buffalo. It’s hip, unique and would seamlessly blend into the fabric of many city neighborhoods.

Larkinville and Allentown immediately spring to mind when I think of the atmosphere inside the Melt location I stopped at but I could also see this as an awesome addition to the right portion of Main Street as well.

Canalside is actually the most obvious choice, but they’re development speed appears to be somewhere between a crawl and reverse at this point. A somewhat out-of-the-way spot would be Darryl Carr’s smith shop at 120 South Park. While it wouldn’t necessarily have the curb appeal that you’d get on Chippewa or Main, it would be a very cool addition to the Cobblestone District.

If I had to pick, I think my first choice would actually be Carr’s smith shop on South Park. Carr, the owner of Cobblestone, has done his best to not do anything with the property but has recently been in hot water with the property and will finally be beginning renovations on it after pleading guilty to numerous code violations. While he doesn’t strike me as the type who would want another bar sitting next door to Cobblestone, the building and district would greatly benefit from adding something such as Melt to the ground floor.

By renovating the upper floors into apartments and putting a bar/restaurant like Melt on the corner you’d not only inject residents into an area of downtown that desperately needs more full time residents, you’d provide a terrific eating option for arena patrons and Canalside visitors of all seasons.

Think about seeing those buildings renovated with residents and a sign like this adorning the street level view for Sabres fans or Canalside concert goers to see as they move past Illinois St. It’s not an ideal location, but the critical mass building along the river and the waterfront tells me that this would and will be an ideal spot to be in the very near future.

Obviously a number of things would need to fall in place for any of this to happen, including having a building with an adequate amount of space for one of Melt’s locations. What I do know is that this is exactly the type of chain I’d love to see in Buffalo and it would be a phenomenal addition to the offerings of downtown Buffalo.

Let’s make this happen, people.

Looking back at Columbus from Buffalo’s perspective

I love traveling to other cities for a host of reasons. So often I come away disappointed knowing that Buffalo is missing so much compared to cities around the country but I also enjoy these trips because I often encounter features that could so easily be incorporated in the Nickel City.

My recent trip to Columbus was eye-opening. The Arena District is thriving and it is directly connected to two more walkable, diverse areas of the city (North Market and Short North). Admittedly, Short North is an easier drive from North Market and the Arena District than a walk. But I digress.

The Columbus Arena District is nothing short than the ideal template for developing a work-play district around a sports venue. Amazingly, it is a district that doesn’t rely solely on Nationwide Arena for survival, but uses the home of the Blue Jackets as a key cog in the operation.

Looking down a pedestrian walkway leading away from Nationwide Arena and towards a half dozen bars.
Looking down a pedestrian walkway leading away from Nationwide Arena and towards a half dozen bars.

In additional to Nationwide Arena, the district boasts Huntington Park – the picturesque home of the Columbus Clippers, Lifestyles Pavilion – a mid-sized concert venue and a host of mixed use buildings. Everything within the district is clad in brick and features design constraints consistent with what you might expect to see from an area replicating former warehouses or, perhaps, a historic canal district.

Just beyond the Arena District along Park Street, is the North Market which features a beautiful open market in an old brick warehouse nestled in a neighborhood with plenty of bars with plenty of patio space. The North Market anchors the small neighborhood which is a short 9-iron from the front door of Nationwide Arena. Another four or five blocks puts you smack in the middle of Short North, which is basically the Elmwood Village on steroids.

All of this is just about three miles from the center of Ohio State University and just over a mile from the center of downtown Columbus.

Spending a couple days in 60-degree weather amongst all of these cool, new bars and restaurants certainly gave me a fair bit of remorse for what we have going on in Buffalo these days. Our city is enjoying a resurgence that many citizens likely doubted would ever come. But when I look at Canalside’s Adirondack Chairs and functional lawns compared to the dozen or so mixed-use buildings surrounding Nationwide Arena I realize how far we still have to go.

We’re getting there, we’re just not nearly as close to having a truly thriving district as many of us might think. Continue reading