Reserving green space and public access to the Outer Harbor is key

Things have shaped up over the last few months around Buffalo’s waterfront. Approximately a year removed from a relative low point in construction and planning – punctuated by the removal of Pike Construction from the Aud site – things have hit a definitive upswing.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has recently taken control of Outer Harbor land and are currently working to identify the proper direction for the property. The public hearings on the land appear to reflect the desire for park space to occupy most, if not all of the ECHDC-held land. As someone who has longed to see true progress along the waterfront in the form of a mixed-use, entertainment district I feel that this seems like a terrific way to go for the Outer Harbor.

If the Outer Harbor was kept as green space that maximized public access thanks to the acres and acres of land, the Inner Harbor and Canalside could be left to grow as the entertainment district it’s been slated to become since the first drafts of the master plan were laid out. A relationship of public access and green space along the Outer Harbor and mixed-use development on the Inner Harbor would not only appease nearly every sector of the public, but would also allow the ECHDC to keep their focus on each topic without being spread thin.

Of course, that means that the Outer Harbor is indeed pegged to become a sterling waterfront park. It seems doubtful that the Outer Harbor is used for a football stadium, residential development or any other sort of large development. This is a space that is already dominated by a number of linked green spaces that could be further enhanced if the space was enhanced further. Continue reading

Finding a home for concerts along Buffalo’s Outer and Inner Harbor

If there’s one summer entertainment option that Buffalo lacks as compared to similar cities it’s an actual concert venue. The stage setup at Canalside makes for a great setting for concerts, but the temporary status makes for an underwhelming venue. The same can be said for the Outer Harbor stage, which has drawn big names but lacks amenities.

At some point in the near future there should be active construction on a number of the parcels at Canalside. When that process begins it will spell the end for the temporary stage and the current set up along the Wharf. Additionally, with the wheels in motion to formulate a master plan for the Outer Harbor State Park, there could be a possibility that the Outer Harbor Concert series needs to relocate.

One way or another, both current sites are potentially in line to be nudged out of their locations due to future development plans. There’s much more flexibility with the Outer Harbor given that there’s no clear direction on how the park land will be developed and the massive amount of space can and should allow for a proper amphitheater to be included in the plans.

Look no further than the concert space at Millennium Park in Chicago for a guideline on this project. While Buffalo’s version doesn’t need to be nearly as big, something that can serve as a real venue as part of the Outer Harbor project should be part of the plans.

Conceivably a slightly larger venue on the Outer Harbor and a scaled down version near the Inner Harbor could co-exist. The two entities work in unison now so it shouldn’t be a stretch to think that a big venue for large acts can settle on the Outer Harbor while a smaller, but still permanent, stage could be built near Canalside. If you’re looking for a comparable to what I envision for the Canalside venue, check out Nautica Pavilion or Stage AE.

That particular point (using those two venues as an example for Canalside) is a point that I’ve harped on ad nauseum, so I don’t wish to linger on finding a parcel within Canalside’s footprint for such a project. One idea that recently came to me was using the land along the Outer Harbor that’s just across the river from Canalside. Use of the land would be nearly entirely reliant upon the completion of the proposed Outer Harbor Bridge, but it would also solve the problem of the future space problem across the way. Continue reading

21st Century Park offers great opportunity for Outer Harbor

Momentum continues to build on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor as additional announcements continue to roll in after Governor Cuomo’s announcement confirming the NFTA’s withdrawl from the massive property  this year.park

The newest group to step forward is one pushing for a large park to be constructed on the Outer Harbor. Their plan calls for a massive 130 acre area to be occupied by a brand new park that would span between Wilkeson Pointe and the recently purchased Terminals A and B. The Buffalo News has all these details if you wish to learn more.

What interests me is the scope and approach of this proposal. While I’m not usually one to promote yet another open park in place of potential mixed use development along out waterfront, this strikes me as one of the strongest uses of waterfront land since the renewed interest in developing the waterfront began.

Of course, in typical Buffalo fashion, this is currently little more than a pretty drawing being promoted by a community interest group set to be presented along with other pretty drawings from other groups. Regardless, it serves as a strong use for a significantly large piece of land that’s sat vacant for far too long.

You may notice that this land is part of the proposed Bills stadium that was pitched earlier in the year. I’m not particularly fond of that stadium plan although I assume that group may be amongst those pitching ideas along with the 21st Century Park group – exactly how many wasn’t mentioned by the News.

Kudos to the 21st Century group for noting the Esmonde Template in securing noted preservation obstructionists as “close friends” as stated on the park website. This is the type of project that those two loveable “waterfront development enthusiasts” would promote, but it just goes to show the importance of securing the proper protection for your projects. Continue reading

Plans floated for waterfront stadium

Don’t get too excited about the pretty picture of the proposed stadium project for the Outer Harbor. Not only is this in the very early stages but the proposal seems to be a pie-in-the-sky plan that probably isn’t a great fit for Western New York.

There are plenty of bits and pieces about this idea that will hopefully become part of an actual new build, but as a project without much backing – and one the Russ Brandon said won’t happen – it is just a pretty picture for now.

To recap the details from The Buffalo News article: The 72,000 seat stadium would be the centerpiece of a $1.4 billion project that would have the stadium serve as a convention center along with a hotel, retail and parking for somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 cars. That was billion, with a B.

Considering the scope of the project, it doesn’t seem all that bad. It puts the stadium downtown along the water, something that fans have been clamoring for a while. In addition, it provides a brand-new home for a team that has been rumored to have one foot out the door due to a number of circumstances – namely their aging relic of a stadium.

However, a 72,000 seat stadium is actually on the high-end of capacities when compared to a number of stadiums around the league and the price tag would most certainly require PSLs and significantly higher tickets costs. The latter two points being widely panned as deal breakers for a financially limited region. Of course, any sort of investment in a new stadium is far more attractive and beneficial (long-term) than wasting another $200 million on upgrades to the Ralph. Continue reading

Some random thoughts for the outer harbor

This post has been a long time coming. While I don’t consider myself as an expert on city planning, I’ve been around to enough cities to see what does and doesn’t work. This summer got my mind working as to what is still missing from Buffalo

I was able to find my way around the city and took in quite a few of the best activities WNY has to offer. Still, I feel like there is so much potential waiting to be unlocked. For the first time I don’t think Canalside is the center of this. I actually think the Outer Harbor is where the greatest opportunity lies.

The well documented white flag waved by the NFTA has made the enormous expanse that comprises the Outer Harbor available for purchase. With all 60 acres are up for sale, seems like a great chance for someone to do something dramatic, sort of like this.

Allow me to dream big for a moment. Outside of a savior stepping in and saying they will build a brand-spanking new stadium for the Bills on this space (because that would be totally badass), I would love to see the Buffalo Zoo relocated and expanded on a large portion of this land. I understand the capital involved in such a project is rather inconceivable, but I’m simply thinking out loud. Continue reading

Vision for the outer harbor

The owner of Dug’s Dive, Tucker Curtain, has a brilliant idea for a portion of Buffalo’s outer harbor.

A brilliant vision and great plan for the Outer Harbor

 

The folks over at Buffalo Rising Online broke the story about the businessman’s vision for the underdeveloped parcel of waterfront.

It is a really great idea. None of it comes off as cheesy or useless. It is obvious that he planned out the potential additions with time and care. Add to that the fact that he didn’t try and use any sort of historical interpretation which should keep him clear of any protests. The fact that he left out functional lawns, the power of ten and triangulation makes this plan that much better. Continue reading