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

More thoughts on the Sabres solution in goal

A short while ago I took a deep dive into the route the Sabres might take when it comes to their goaltending next season. I settled on the trade route being my preferred option for Sabres’ GM Tim Murray to take.

Buffalo’s goaltending pipeline isn’t too shabby with Linus Ullmark set to make his North American debut this fall alongside established farmhand, Andrey Makarov. Cal Petersen is still a couple years away from a professional contract but was impressive as a freshman at Notre Dame while 2014 draft pick Jonas Johansson’s big frame makes him an intriguing prospect.

The situation above those players, however, is quite murky. Chad Johnson is the only goaltender with more than one game of NHL experience under contact and he slots in as a backup at best. Since posting my thoughts on the goaltenders (linked above), the Sabres have fallen out of the Matt O’Connor sweepstakes and Matt Hackett’s knee injury prevented him from playing enough games to retain restricted free agent status.

With O’Connor out of the picture and Hackett likely to join him, Murray should at least have a better idea of who will be in the crease in Rochester this season. The Amerks could stand to have a veteran AHL presence in the locker room and on the ice, but we’ll have to see who is available for that type of role.

My opinion on Murray’s direction remains unchanged (like the Browns). The best route, in my opinion, is to acquire a young goaltender who has shown he’s capable of growing into a dependable starter in the league. Even with Ullmark showing impressive chops and Petersen growing into a fine prospect, the Sabres need more stability at the top of their depth chart. Stability that also provides them with an outlook beyond the next few seasons. 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.

2015 2ITB End of Season Awards

The 2014-15 season was like no other in Sabres history as Buffalo’s rebuild plunged the team into another last place season as they pushed to secure the right to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Media narratives on tanking and the need to pick first piled on game after game of poorly played hockey by a patchwork roster led by a lame duck coach. The season was capped by the Edmonton Oilers snatching the first overall pick with the Sabres guaranteed to slot in second in the draft order.

Such an odd season cannot be served by any run-of-the-mill awards post. So the fourth-annual 2ITB Awards will take on a slightly different look this year as we reflect back on a headache inducing run towards the end of the rebuild.

Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Toews – Toews heroics in the final minutes of Chicago’s 4-3 win erased an improbably Buffalo lead and snatched away a regulation win that would have brought the Sabres two points closer to 29th place. As it turns out, Captain Serious’ tallies were much needed as Buffalo didn’t ensure last place until the second last game of the year and the lottery results would have pushed them out of the second pick.

Least Valuable Player: Andre Benoit – I’m not sure there was any one player on the roster who was as consistently disappointing as Benoit was. He scored a nice shorthanded goal in a drubbing by the Red Wings but was generally bad the entire year. He certainly contributed to the tank but was a complete albatross in every other situation.

Best Prospect: Mark Pysyk – Pysyk has been a good solider for the Sabres since he was drafted. Tim Murray knew that the best place for Pysyk this year was likely to be Rochester despite Pysyk’s ability to excel at the NHL level. He’s poised to be a major piece of the puzzle in the near future and if his health issues clear up I think he’ll wind up playing a top-four role next year. Continue reading

It’s time for the Sabres to address their rafters

The summer is expected to bring changes to One Seymour H Knox III Plaza both on the ice and off. Tim Murray will not only be ushering in the second overall pick in the draft – which is all but assured to be Jack Eichel – along with a number of other acquisitions which are expected to improve the on-ice product.

Away from the ice, improvements to the arena will be on their way again as First Niagara Center continues to get updates as its 20th birthday approaches. One area of the arena that I think needs immediate attention is the rafters. Particularly the items hanging from the rafters.

Presently the Sabres have seven retired numbers, ten Sabres championship banners, two banners in memory of the Knoxes, six banners commemorating the Bandits retired numbers and championships and then four “Gold Ring Sponsor” banners. That’s the extent of what hangs from the FNC rafters (aside from the US and Canadian flags) and I’d like to see the Sabres organization address this aspect of the in-arena experience.

First off, the Sabres banners look horrible. They’re separated by a large gap and there are at least three different fonts used on the seven banners. The French Connection and Tim Horton banners are obviously made with a different font than Gare, LaFontaine or Hasek’s and it appears as if the Hasek banner has a slightly different number font than the others as well.

Additionally, the Hasek banner itself is a different size than the rest. It appears to be the same width but the break to the pointed end is lower than that of the neighboring banners. Combining that poor measurement with the varying fonts – and potentially colors – cries out for the team to revisit and re-hang the banners with a uniform look.

Finding a new location for them, hopefully somewhere in the rafters that isn’t interrupted by a spotlight stand, would provide the ability to order them properly as well. The large gap between Gare and LaFontaine’s banners look ridiculous and I’d rather see the team decide to abandon that spotlight location in order to provide a better layout for their retired numbers. Continue reading

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.