Dynamic Perry Street project should be fast tracked

A super group of business entities that occupy various areas around Canalside and the Cobblestone District have joined forces in hopes of adding streetscape improvements to Perry Street and the area around Canalside.

As reported by Buffalo Rising, Seneca Gaming, the Sabres, Savarino Companies and HSBC have all voiced support of a project that will connect Canalside with its neighbors around the larger arena and entertainment district with an impressive set of streetscape upgrades.

From the Buffalo Rising report:

The primary goal of the project is to enhance the visual appeal and experience of the corridor and to link the areas entertainment and retail connections. Design highlights:

  • Widen the pedestrian corridors by shifting parking away from the sidewalk in some locations and using unique and sculptural screening elements to buffer the lots. The screening elements would be reminiscent of the area’s industrial past.
  • Provide unique and consistent catenary street lighting to visually reinforce linkages between destinations.
  • Use artistic lighting accents and aerial lighting canopies over crosswalks to highlight key nodes.
  • Install curving and colorful pavement design to evoke a waterfront theme and allow for seating opportunities, landscape buffer treatments and trees.
  • Plant a double rows of trees on each side of the street to create a canopied walkway with permeable concrete and structural soils beneath to establish desirable growing conditions.
  • Use cobblestone materials for benches, planter curbs, and other features to unify the look of the street with the rest of the Cobblestone District.
  • Improve street aesthetics and safety with new safe pedestrian crossings, line-striped crosswalks, and pavement overlays, including well-defined and buffered bicycle lanes.
  • Utilize wayfinding signage to provide directions to pedestrians, drivers and cyclers. Continue reading

Buffalo Pipe Dream: A better use for the Cobblestone Parking District

Note the four massive parking lots smack in the middle of this “district”.

With a trio of pipe dreams on paper, I thought I would share another idea I have been mulling for some time. This will revolve around two massive parking lots and one densely packed neighborhood otherwise known as the Cobblestone District.

Let’s call a spade a spade. The Cobblestone District is horribly named. It should be the Cobblestone Parking District. After all, 75% of the neighborhood is composed of two massive surface lots that are kept empty expect for 100 days a year when the arena is in use. These lots were spawned due to the construction of the arena, but I can’t imagine that this was the only use that planners could have come up with for two such massive pieces of land.

The one surviving block has become a well-used strip of property with some terrific re-use projects anchoring the side of the block that fronts Mississippi St. The back side (Illinois St.) leaves much to be desired, but most of the buildings are at least occupied at this time. There is still a massive black hole in the old smith shop on the corner of South Park and Illinois that has slowly become an albatross for the neighborhood and the building owner. There are plenty of great re-use ideas on the table for that property, but I doubt anything will ever come of it.

A photo from Buffalo Rising showing a terrific re-use for the empty smith shop in the Cobblestone District.

As for the rest; there is nothing. Literally nothing. The streets are paved with Cobblestones but they are utterly pointless as there is nothing that they lead to. This needs to change. There is a slow trickle of development happening on the waterfront and the Buffalo Creek Casino appears to be poised to grow out of the pathetic steel building it currently occupies. By the time these two pieces of the puzzle are complete, I will be 50; but I digress.

The Cobblestone District sits between two very important pieces of Buffalo’s entertainment district. Canalside and the arena make up one bookend and the casino makes up the other. There is a tremendous opportunity for this district to become something similar to Toronto’s Distillery District and act as a solid filler for two major pieces of entertainment in the city. However, the massive plain of concrete needs to rise into something better. I think I may have a solution – or, at least part of one. Continue reading

Casino redesign and Webster Block building momentum downtown

The recently released design for the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino struck me as a big middle finger to every person who has spent the better half of a decade trying to hold up and halt the progress of the downtown casino.

The release of the design came out just ahead of the official announcement of the RFP for the Webster Block – one of the pivotal lots in and Canalside and the First Niagara Center. According to reports, the plan for the Webster Block will come out in June with the possibility of construction on a new project to coincide with that of the Donovan Building and the casino just a few blocks away.

Construction on the casino is supposed to be complete in 2013, but we will see how many lawsuits are filed in hopes of stalling the project. One of the ideas behind the scaled-back casino project was to allow the surrounding neighborhood(s) to prosper from those patronizing the establishment. In theory, it is a good approach to take; allowing casino-goers certain services from the nearby restaurants and FNC will keep people moving throughout the area, rather than confining them to the casino. This is the type of thinking I can get behind.

If I’m being truthful, I don’t love the redesigned casino. The entire project is nothing more than a nice looking building buried in a sea of parking lots. I understand the need for parking – it is something that has been lost on many – but it would seem as if the assembly of lots may be more of an antagonistic piece of design. I can’t say I blame the Seneca’s for such action, regardless of the actual intent. This project was once a giant hotel and casino project complete with a performance hall. It may have been expected to act as a silver bullet for the city, which was an incorrect designation. However, the hotel tower and gaming hall would have brought a serious attraction just steps away from FNC. However, numerous lawsuits and the claim of a dipping economy held up the project and eventually led to the pathetic embarrassment that has graced the corner of the lot since 2008.

Now the casino will be nothing more than a complimentary piece of the puzzle, rather than a major part of the big picture approach to a district starving for development.

The reason I offer such an opinion on the casino itself is that the potential project to be built on the Webster Block could have some relationship to some of the ancillary amenities offered to casino patrons. The Webster Block project will undoubtedly have an impact and ties to the development of Canalside. At least it should.

Continue reading