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

Pegula Ice Arena progressing towards completion

This is a special guest submission from Kyle Rossi who runs the blog Thank You Terry. His blog is all about Penn State hockey – both club and NCAA – and is full of phenomenal information. I highly recommend reading it on a regular basis. Kyle was kind enough to offer some insight to the progress being made on the Pegula Ice Arena down in State College. Given the Sabres recent victory regarding the Webster Block, I thought there would be no one better to provide some insight on the scope of a Pegula funded project such as the PIA or the HARBORcenter. Enjoy.

Hey Sabres fans! My name is Kyle Rossi, and I write Thank You Terry, a blog covering the soon-to-be four hockey teams representing Penn State (men’s and women’s NCAA, men’s and women’s ACHA). As I’m sure you know, you and I both share a debt of gratitude to one rather wealthy man: Terry Pegula.

The rendering of what the finished Pegula Ice Arena will look like.

Our stories are actually somewhat parallel. While Buffalo was wandering through a purgatory characterized by an always-competitive team that never saw a free agent it couldn’t lose (or a scouting department it couldn’t slash) and therefore couldn’t take the final couple of steps, Penn State was dealing with its own sort of limbo. Our non-varsity teams, known as the Icers and Lady Icers, had been considered candidates to make the jump to the big time, NCAA Division I, for decades – if only the school could find some money for a DI-caliber hockey arena. Despite PSU’s glut of success in the ACHA (including seven national championships), the program’s rabid supporters were always just one “hey, when are you guys going DI?” from an outsider away from a feeling of hopelessness.

Suddenly, in swoops this billionaire nobody had ever heard of to write large checks and save the day. In the Sabres’ case, I suppose he wasn’t a complete unknown, but there still had to be a “wait…this guy’s a Sabres fan…and he wants to buy the team?!?” moment for you guys.

Anyway, Chris invited me to write this post to update you on the progress of something possibly of interest of you, the arena bearing Pegula’s name on Penn State’s campus.

You might be familiar with some of the widely-reported basics. There will be two NHL-sized sheets, one in what’s being called the Community Rink, which will have 300 seats, the other in the main arena, which will seat 6,000. Five thousand of those seats will be arranged in a single-level horseshoe, with a ring of suites above the open concourse that will be at the top of the “regular person” seating. The final thousand seats will be the student section, to be located behind the net Penn State will attack twice. It will be as steep as code allows, helping to meet the one major directive Pegula has given on the project, that the building “sound like a hockey game inside of a garbage can” on game days.

“It should sound like a hockey game inside a garbage can.” Terry Pegula

The price tag – $89 million – is absolutely staggering for a college hockey facility of its size. For context on that, one only needs to consider some of the venues toured by a Penn State contingent (including Pegula) in 2010 to generate design ideas. Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena, which opened last season, cost about $50 million. Miami’s Goggin Ice Center cost $35 million (in 2006). Minnesota-Duluth’s AMSOIL Arena opened in late 2010 at a cost of $38 million, while RIT’s proposed Gene Polisseni Center, the most likely candidate to replace the Pegula Ice Arena as the newest in college hockey, is estimated to cost around $35 million. Basically, if Penn State gets anything approaching dollar-for-dollar value on this project, it will instantly become the crown jewel of college hockey. Continue reading

Webster Block proposals on the table

Both Carl Paladino and the Buffalo Sabres bid for the Webster Block are now open to the public. Both on the City of Buffalo website and The Buffalo News.

Courtesy: The Buffalo News

Paladino released renderings of his plans early in the process in what was likely a play for some positive PR from anyone keeping track of the project. The Sabres proposal, called the Harbor Center, was expected to be impressive and upon a cursory reading of their proposal, it is.

According to documents attached to the news story, Harbor Center will combine a pair of ice rinks on the lower roof of the building and a 200 room hotel facing the lake which looks to take up somewhere north of seven or eight floors.

The rink layout is staggered along the length of the building, as is the hotel. Other details that stood out is the apparent layout of where the restaurant and retail locations would be located. The Harbor Center has a very Torontonian feel to it for some reason. When everything is finished between the Donovan Building and Webster Block, the density and design concepts in that neighborhood will be very impressive. Continue reading

UPDATED: Sabres a player for Webster Block

It would appear that the competition for the Webster Block will come down to a pair of plans submitted to the City on the 15th.

According to Business First, the Sabres and Carl Paladino each have submitted a bid for the RFP process for the block across from First Niagara Center. Business First mentions a third bid which was described as more of a concept as compared to the other two bids.

Shovels should be in the ground on the Webster Block within 12 months.

“Sources said the Sabres are proposing a multi-rink facility, with a themed sports bar/restaurant to be developed by Delaware North. The rinks would be used as a practice facility for the team as well as the home base for some of the area’s collegiate hockey teams. It would also host amateur and youth tournaments.

The Paladino/Ellicott Development proposal calls for a multi-use project anchored by 140-room brand name hotel, 42 market rate apartments, 110,000-square-feet of Class A office space, some street level restaurant and retail store fronts and a 1,089-space parking garage.”

The part that should illicit the most excitement is that the city is expected to announce a winner by the end of the summer and construction will be expected to begin next year. Based on that time table I wouldn’t be surprised if major progress wasn’t underway on the block within the next 12-18 months. Continue reading

Buffalo Pipe Dream: The Webster Block and the Sabres

Part two of my Pipe Dream series will focus on the Webster Block and in what direction this prime piece of realty may go. Read part one on the Central Terminal here.

Just over a year ago it looked as if HSBC would bounce down Main Street to build a sparkling new office building across the street from the glass-faced Atrium. Weeks after that announcement the bank decided to go in the opposite direction, selling off local branches and consolidating a number of operations. That left the parcel of their potential development sitting empty once again.

Currently standing as a parking lot, the Webster Block blends nicely with the green fields and lawn chairs of Canalside, plus the Cobblestone Parking District that sit nearby. However, it seems as if Bryon Brown wants to fast track development on this prime piece of real estate.

Based on what I’ve read, the possibility for a multi-use facility run by the Buffalo Sabres is pretty exciting. I previously worked up an idea on a practice facility for the Sabres to be built in the Cobblestone District. With the alleged interest in the Webster Block, I’ll tweak my original plan to fit. My recent thoughts on this project go beyond just an arena capable of housing a junior team. I think a proper mixed-use development would serve the Sabres and city well.

Like George Costanza, I like to pretend I’m an architect but have no real skills in the field. So this may come off as completely backwards. Ideally, the arena would occupy the lower floors of the structure – possibly being built a story or two underground if necessary. The shops and restaurants would be on the second level, with access from ground floor entries and a skybridge with First Niagara Center. I’d also have a modest tower built on the corner of the lot fronting Scott St., nearest to the Donovan Building. 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