I was driving through downtown today when I realized; Buffalo has been treading water for the past 10+ years.
There is so much potential for new development and exciting new projects, yet nothing ever gets off the ground. Start in 1997 when the new Peace Bridge was supposed to go up – hope nobody is still holding their breath on that one. Better yet, 2001, Bass Pro signaled that they wanted an anchor store in Buffalo, a short time later they earmarked The Aud as their ideal location. Today, Bass Pro has opened a gazillion (probably more like 10) new stores all over North America. WTF.
Even the “silver bullet” casino never got off the ground. Sure, the Seneca’s opened the “temporary” casino with a bunch of slots (no pay phone bank) but it doesn’t seem like they’re concerned with the eyesore that is the steel skeleton of the original Buffalo Creek Casino. I was told there is little time remaining until the standing steel is useless. How perfect would that be?
I have recapped all of this without even touching the sports. I don’t really need to either, it is too well documented.
What concerns me is that there are so many great ideas (Canalside) floating around Buffalo but nothing ever gets done. I lay a lot of blame with the conservationists who seem to think keeping a dilapidated building is more important than progress. New flash a-holes, you can’t move forward without leaving something behind.
The Peace Bridge could have been built three times over if everyone would shut their mouths, forget about the empty neighborhood and let the birds figure out how to turn left and right. Honestly, if there weren’t so many fools out there stomping their feet at any sign of a new project, this city could be 25 years ahead of where we are now.
I should have prefaced that thought with this. Bass Pro, nor the Seneca Casino are the answer to Buffalo’s problems. But, the fact that the Cobblestone/Arena district consists of three bars is absolutely pathetic. Plus, the absolute neglect that has been shown for the waterfront is a complete joke as well. The city was founded in 1789, it took us until 2008 to put anything there.
I digress, just now are we realizing what Baltimore, Pittsburgh et. al. have discovered. People like to go down to the water, there are things to do down there. But, somehow we cannot get our collective butts in gear to make serious strides down there. I suppose all the waiting for Bass Pro has hurt the cause. Plus, every one and their brother seems to take issue with some part of the design. They should be happy that a world-class entertainment/shopping district will be going in.
I am no expert on this subject, I follow it very close but, I am certainly no city planner. Nevertheless, I feel like too many voices leads to too many directions for these projects. At least the Seneca’s said “screw you, its our land and we are putting in a casino.” Of course, the casino is now a small steel building not the massive structure we were promised.
Plus, that casino would probably do more harm than good as a stand alone development. It would need actual projects to lean on. Luckily there are numerous opportunities near the casino site.
So, what can be done? With each new hurdle I have to wonder if there is some sort of hex over this town. It is beginning to make more and more sense. But, there are things that could be done to make our city more attractive to outsiders.
First, the Cobblestone District and Larkin District are two potential powder kegs for new development. The Larkin District seems to have more commercial potential rather than becoming a true destination. However, the Cobblestone District has more upside in my eyes.
So many cities centralize major entertainment around sports arenas or stadiums, Pittsburgh is a great example. HSBC Arena could provide that hub for Buffalo. Plus, Coca-Cola Field is a hop and a skip from there. Unfortunately, there are three bars outside the arena plus a whole bunch of empty buildings. I don’t see why those buildings couldn’t be converted to mixed-use residential and commercial structures, much like what was done on Mississippi Street. You could keep period-style buildings all while improving the night-life and restaurant scene around the arena.
This plan is two-fold thanks to the proximity to the water. I say screw the living-wage argument and get the Canal Side project up and running. Get retail and additional restaurants and bars on the water in the new buildings as soon as possible. Once that goes in (realistically five years but 10 years Buffalo time) you would have two major “districts” that could join together to make the Inner Harbor a major destination.
Not to mention, with any luck the bridge(s) connecting the outer harbor would be complete allowing for additional development. This has the potential to be an enormous coup for the city. The only problem is that there are too many people coming forward saying they have an issue with some part of the plan. I wish they would stay shut up in their homes until all of this was done. That way, when the chips are on the table they can see what was created with the unlimited potential of our waterfront.