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.

The extraordinary amount of space here would allow the zoo to expand certain exhibits, provide better space for animals that need/deserve it and would act as an opportunity to create a state-of-the-art complex that could serve as a destination for those visiting the city. Not to mention, there would be plenty of space left over to put in a new aquarium. In fact, if I had to choose one, I would say put a huge new aquarium out that way. The Niagara Aquarium is dated and undersized. We don’t necessarily need one the size of Atlanta’s, just a substantial attraction that would make a statement to those coming from out-of-town.

I should point out that I find little fault with the Buffalo Zoo. There are areas that are in desperate need of renovations. However, there are some awesome parts too. The rainforest building is truly spectacular, despite being about 500 degrees inside. The Sea Lion Cove and Otter Creek exhibits are equally impressive, there are just some spaces that are in need of updating. I wouldn’t balk at the opportunity to expand further into Delaware Park, either. To me it is six to a half-dozen in that regard.

The reason the Outer Harbor became so interesting to me was because I see the opportunity to put something big and awesome in that space. I’ll stick with the aquarium over the zoo for the time being. Simply because the Zoo has a home (though space limited) and isn’t in desperate need of an upgrade. I’d locate said aquarium closer to the Coast Guard station and Canalside so the outer harbor bridge (when built) can service it directly.

The chances of this ever happening? Miniscule. If I ever have a couple hundred million lying around, I’ll be sure to carry this plan out. But for the time being we can think about how cool it would be.

I had a few other thoughts of what has been going on in Buffalo over the past six months, or so:

  • Touting an expansion of the Central Wharf is sort of like saying Bob Corkum was a deadline blockbuster. Let’s call this deal what it is, another step forward in developing Canalside. Still, without actual THINGS TO DO I really see no point to staying any longer than 20 minutes. I went down twice and had no interest in going back because you can only sit in those chairs for so long.
  • It seems as if the Connecting Terminal grain elevator across from Canalside is going to get a mural painted on it. This is an awesome idea. Not only is it one of those tangible projects people can point to and say, “see we ARE getting stuff done,” it will also serve as an excellent backdrop to an up and coming part of the city. This will look cool all 12 months of the year, another big bonus.
  • I finally went to Riverfest Park (Peg Overdorf’s pet project). It is incredible. Hats off to Peg and the work she has done to build a jewel in an area that needs something to spark interest. The next step is for a little life to be pumped into the neighborhood around the park. It is pretty bleak in that area, a little TLC will go a long way.
  • The fact that the “historic” canals, that were such a sticking point in the Canalside development, will only be 18 inches deep should be a slap in the face to everyone. So many obstructionists stood in the way of the “faux canal” plan so the canals in the district would follow their original paths. Call me crazy, but the Erie Canal was a hell of a lot deeper than 18 inches. Complete contradiction and waste of time for a few vocal jerks to get their way.
  • Lagerhaus 95 and Liberty Hound will be good additions to the Arena District. Two more options for Sabres fans will make the neighborhood lively. I’m hopeful that someone steps in and takes ownership of the blacksmith shop on Illinois currently owned by Darryl Carr. The reason I say this is because I think another bar, particularly a two-story Sabres bar, on that corner would be ultra-successful. If Carr can pull that off, then I say go for it. If not, I’d like to see someone else step in.

Between the announced projects, and those in progress, it seems as if the summer of 2012 may be more of a time to enjoy new amenities. It would be a welcome change to simply talking about and creating pretty drawings of ideas people have.

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