It’s time to consider ugrading the Metro Rail’s look

A great deal of time, money and interest is being invested into Main Street in an effort to reverse some of the planning errors of the last 30 years. The decision to return vehicle traffic to the street has already brought new business to many long-vacant storefronts and more is expected to come as the project progresses towards Canalside.

train
Side by side of the rail cars used in Buffalo and the Twin Cities

While securing the funding for the final portions of the project remains the biggest hurdle for the city, I keep wondering if the NFTA missed a major opportunity in recent years when they spent millions on new Metro Rail cars as part of a system-wide update. The new cars came with new technology and an upgraded interior, but the exterior look remained the same as the other dated trains that are used daily.

With so much change coming to downtown, particularly along Main Street where new stations will begin to replace the eyesores from the Metro Rail’s original installation, the NFTA will be front and center. As will their rail cars. Continue reading

Pipe Dream: Taking the opportunity to upgrade First Niagara Center’s exterior

The fanfare surrounding HARBORCENTER isn’t going to die down soon. Nor should it. This is a phenomenal project that will inject all sorts of money and life into downtown Buffalo. It has the added flair of pissing off Tim Tielman and leaving him pouting in his open air bus, clutching to his construction paper and crayon “alternative”.

Just take a minute to look at that thing and tell me it’s not the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever seen. I can’t tell what’s more hysterical, the fishing huts along Main or the rink on a portion of the DL&W Terminal that isn’t currently a platform suitable for a rink.

Make this a statement, not an afterthought.

Anyway, HARBORCENTER is going to be a boon for downtown, the waterfront, Canalside and the arena district as a whole. It has raised some concern over the First Niagara signage on the arena being obstructed and it has also obstructed a vast majority of First Niagara Center’s atrium. The former point probably isn’t all that important. Nor will it be all that difficult to address. The latter, however, should be addressed in some form or function.

I’ve mentioned before that it would be beneficial to re-skin the atrium as a way to improve the visual connection between HARBORCENTER and the arena. The drop off in height and the drastic difference in architecture makes the adjoining buildings look odd, especially from Main Street. So the idea of a visual upgrade makes sense to me.

However, in between portions of our most recent podcast, Eric (of 3rd Man In) and I got to talking about a few aspects of the arena and how the Sabres may be able to improve on the exterior of the building. Continue reading

Canalside is Finally Nearing its Potential

If you get the chance, take a drive down to Canalside this weekend. Every square inch of concrete has been poured on the historically aligned canals and yet another major milestone has been reached by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. Now it’s time to wait.IMG_3563

Aside from the literal waiting that will accompany the concrete’s 28-day curing process (per The Buffalo News) it also appears that we will be waiting for the next significant move from the ECHDC. Tom Dee is always careful with his words but he never hesitates to reveal significant items when the opportunity presents itself. Yesterday’s development was no different as Dee said that Canalside is well past it’s tipping point.

I have to disagree with his sentiment. This is the tipping point. Continue reading

Could Buffalo be Considered as a World Cup of Hockey Host?

The World Cup of Hockey will be returning. After a ten-year absence, the tournament will officially return in 2016. Per Pierre LeBrun’s report, it’s simply a matter of ironing out the final details of the agreement before making a formal announcement.

Re-instituting the World Cup could mean any number of things with some wondering if it means the league is bracing for a divorce from Olympic participation. Further, the timing of the tournament itself will likely fall prior to the regular season, which should ensure full participation of the world’s best players.

One advantage this tournament gives the league is greater control over the product being produced. Hand-picked venues avoid the time zone constraints created by many Olympic host cities (a primary concern regarding the next two Winter Games). The 2004 event saw games played in Toronto, Montreal, St. Paul, Helsinki, Stockholm, Cologne and Prague. Most of those venues also served the 1996 World Cup.

The 2016 event offers the league and the event’s organizers an chance to showcase another group of cities around the world and I have to wonder if Buffalo earns consideration as a host city. Continue reading

Connecting the dots between Hofbrauhaus and Canalside

It’s been a long time since this much news has come out about Canalside in such a short period of time. Aside from one small announcement that ECHDC will be waiting to develop the north portion of the Aud Block it’s been all great news for the epicenter of Buffalo’s waterfront development.

The building on the right will be bringing a beer garden to Canalside within the next year and it might just be the home of the previously announced Hofbrauhaus.

Today’s news included a report that Pizza Plant will be occupying the ground floor retail space in One Canalside and adding another food and entertainment option to the area around Canalside and the arena. The best part of that news is that there’s potential to see Pizza Plant open and operating right around the same time that HARBORCENTER and (716) open their doors.

Another report indicated that Pizza Plant and (716) will have company along Washington Street as Benderson has begun to work on developing a yet to be unnamed beer garden for the South Block. The Buffalo News report says the beer garden is at least a year away, which would probably slate it for a late-2015 opening. Continue reading

Canalside wouldn’t be the only beneficiary of the Skyway’s removal

Run down a list of synonyms for eyesore and you’re bound to check off a number of phrases used to describe Buffalo’s Skyway. The elevated roadway has been the subject of debate for the last number of years as the clamor to bring it down continues to grow louder.

skyway mainThe arguments for its removal are obvious and well documented. It’s an antiquated roadway that not only causes headaches each year (due to its lack of shoulders) but now stands as a barrier against waterfront development in Buffalo as the roadway’s supports stand in the middle of prime space in the Outer Harbor and Canalside neighborhood. Plans to, at the very least, introduce an at-grade harbor bridge are moving along (slowly) with the goal being to provide a better alternative to using the Skyway for travelers on Route 5.

While the Skyway’s replacement is still at least two, if not three years away, it’s time to take serious action towards removing the Skyway as well.

Among the areas that will benefit most from removing the Skyway will be Canalside, as the parcels along the Central Wharf will be completely free for development as opposed to how they appear today. However, the corner of Pearl and Seneca Streets will also see a massive amount of space open up thanks to the removal of the ramp connecting the Skyway to the 190. Three areas on Pearl St. along with another that runs along Perry Blvd. will be open for business after previously sitting relatively dormant under the Skyway.

These blocks could serve as an extension of Canalside and bridge the growing district with the downtown core. Without any specific residential plans set for the area around Canalside at this point, these blocks – particularly the current parking lot across from Pearl St. – could be developed as residential infill to continue to draw permanent residents to this portion of the city. Continue reading

NFTA can keep pace with Canalside development with a minor alteration

Progress at Canalside is expected to be in high gear this summer as HARBORcenter continues to rise at a breakneck pace and construction on the faux canals should recommence now that Pike has taken over. One Canalside is almost fully open for business and the entertainment district is truly taking shape.

While the grassy, empty parcels wait for private investors to dive in, another opportunity continues to be missed as the Metro Rail trains cruise through each day.

Use this as a guide, not a template for the idea I’m floating.

The hideous red arch that spanned the rail line was taken down last year and additional work on the former Aud Station has taken place lately as the NFTA took the necessary steps to bring the rail line and stations up to par around the burgeoning district. However, there’s so much more they could be doing.

As the project to return cars to Main Street continues to inch towards the waterfront, the NFTA is seeing major changes made to the antiquated décor that surrounds each of their stations in the free zone. However, slapping a fresh coat of paint on the current Erie Canal Harbor Station is simply lipstick on a pig. Continue reading