Time for the next step after the debut of Ice at Canalside

It was almost five years in the making, but the historically aligned canals at Canalside were finally opened last night marking another milestone in Buffalo’s waterfront development.

As was to be expected, the crowd at Canalside was massive and the numbers patronizing the new skating venue will likely continue to swell over the next few weeks. All told, this was a huge victory for Canalside, the Erie Canal Harbor Corporation and Buffalo as a whole. While one night doesn’t make for guaranteed long-term success, I hope that the ECHDC are spurred to get the next piece of development done well ahead of schedule.Canalside

The three parcels that sit on the South Aud Block are shovel ready with plans for Explore & More to take up the largest of the three parcels with a restaurant and information center to occupy the other two, respectively. An RFP was issued for designs last year and now ECHDC is seeking a developer for the site. They even have pretty pictures which may or may not have no bearing on what the chosen developer builds.

Proposals from developers are due by January 9 and the ECHDC RFP notes that first round interviews will be held on or around January 22. So as of now, we’re well over a month away from identifying the developer for this site. The good news is that Explore & More has always been operating on a 2016 transition to the Canalside site, something noted in the ECHDC RFP documents. Putting two and two together tells me that once a developer is chosen, it shouldn’t be long before we see concrete being poured and structural steel rising; so long as ECHDC learned their lesson with the canals. 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

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

HARBORcenter continues to be attacked

Somedays Tim Tielman must feel pretty good about himself. You can’t blame him. Just imagine how cool it would be to have the ability to call up your lackey columnist at the local paper so that he can trumpet your “achievements” for the community to read.

That’s basically what Donn Esmonde’s column in today’s paper does. While the entire scope focuses on some of Esmonde’s viewpoints on HARBORcenter, it is riddled with little than a firm pat on the back to everyone’s favorite “urban designer”, Tim Tielman. (If Tim Tielman can be categorized as an urban planner, you can officially refer to me as a novelist. Because, you know, I write stuff. )

Portions of the column actually make strong claims in support and against HARBORcenter. In fact, Esmonde seems to understand how the project will serve as a regional draw and will ultimately service Canalside as a whole. However, bemoaning the addition of parking with the simultaneous elimination of a surface lot and introduction of an anchor project is perplexing. Continue reading

Canalside public hearing coming soon; but what about more construction?

Don’t worry, Buffalo. The waterfront you deserve is well on its way and will arrive in 2031. That is if everything goes according to plan.

ECHDC is set to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, December 5 to discuss and detail the revised master plan for Canalside. For those of you who have a vested interest in the development of this fair city and the waterfront, this will be a great event to take in. Unfortunately my work schedule will not allow me to attend.

However, the revised master plan is available for public digestion on the ECHDC website (www.eriecanalharbor.com) and is certainly worth a look. It details nearly everything one could think of regarding the current and future development of the parcels surrounding the Buffalo River. It also details the expected date of completion, 2031. That’s right, in just under 20 years Buffalo should have the waterfront it deserves. Twenty. Years. Continue reading

Change to Canalside parcel isn’t all bad

A few weeks ago ECHDC made an announcement that appeared to be a significant scale back of a portion of the Canalside development. They have since clarified their stance on the portion of land that makes up the space immediately south of One Canalside and the development parcel known as the “South Block”.

The original reportspointed to a plan that would not only minimize the water element of the parcel, but eliminate the potential for development of the South Block. However, ECHDC stepped up and clarified their stance, pointing to a re-worked plan for the area more so than an overhaul.

The circle indicates the next portion of Canalside that will be constructed.

On Friday, Buffalo Rising came forward with more details on the project and how it will come together. The canal will indeed be scaled back to more of a shallow reflecting pool on a canal path. However, there will be elements added to the canal path that will alter the way it will look.Rather than to simply toss in another historically aligned, but ultimately faux canal, the majority of the canal will be covered with a paved tree grove with only a portion of the canal pool being exposed. As BRO details, channels will run through the grove so that the water will still be visible.

When ECHDC clarified some of their planning for this, Tom Dee explained that he saw this as becoming a very cool place that people will want to hang out in. I have to say that I agree. While I originally bemoaned the thought of another piece of the master plan being significantly scaled back, I now feel that this will be addition by addition. I’d say addition by subtraction, but this is actually adding quite a bit more to the space.

The addition of the tree grove and paved portion of the canal should actually serve as a far more effective link between Washington St. and the rest of Canalside. In addition, it will also confine the potential pitfalls of not building One Canalside out to the curb. Rather than the space between One Canalside, the South Block, Washington and Main being relatively sparse; this will actually add a bit more density and should also give more of a reason for people to mingle. Continue reading

Change to Canalside parcel strips potential development, Because it’s Buffalo

More public green space and less room for commercial development; that’s exactly what Buffalo’s central waterfront development project needs.

Business First ran a storyabout a pair of changes that will be made to a parcel of Canalside property in the next 12 months that will significantly alter the density and urban feel to the area. The change will also make a significant alteration to something that so many preservationists fought so hard for.

The canal and parcel on the left side of this photo have been drastically altered by the ECHDC.

The portion of the Donovan Building property that fronts Scott St. between Washington and Main was originally supposed to be the home for a low-rise strip of development with a canal roped between One Canalside (Donovan Building) and the “south block” as it is called.

The ECHDC has now decided that property is better suited to serve as additional green space with shady areas to sit. What about the canal? That will now turn into a reflecting pool – which is pretty much what the re-routed canals are anyway thanks to the Hamburg Drain.

To review, the ECHDC has deemed that a parcel of potential retail and commercial development replete with a canal just outside of the building will be better off as a lawn with a pool of water that will likely be shallower than what the foot-and-a-half canals will already be.

Canalside was enjoying plenty of positive momentum thanks to a year of actual development announcements and the commencement of other projects. Between the construction on the canals, One Canalside being in full swing and the announcement of HARBORcenter, Canalside was not only becoming a central location for serious development but was gaining the critical mass that the region has been waiting for since the first master plan was unveiled for the area. Continue reading