Canalside and Explore-n-More: Why Buffalo can’t have nice things

Comparing development projects to fables probably isn’t a very good strategy. Typically the first one to the finish line is the project that finds the most success. However, those in charge of planning, approving and building Canalside seem to think slow and steady wins the race.

Canalside: coming, spring 2030! (Date subject to change)

After putting out an RFP for organizations to pitch for museum space to be built on the former Aud site, ECHDC is allowing Explore-n-More to move forward with the initial study for the children’s museum they plan on building at Canalside.

According to Buffalo Rising, Explore-n-More will begin to determine the size, configuration, exhibit space, capital and operational costs of the “Children’s Experience” that will occupy a major section of the Aud Block. This exploratory phase will also determine if Explore-n-More will be capable of raising the necessary funds – to which ECHDC will match on a $1 to $2 basis – to run such a museum. The BRO report also details that a public involvement plan will be implemented as part of the Master Plan process in addition to a Capital Campagin Feasibility Study for another portion of another Master Plan.

All of this nonsense will be compiled as part of a Final Museum Master Plan based on a Feasibility Study and public input which will be completed in May of 2013 before being submitted to the ECHDC and Explore-n-More boards. All of these hoops and hurdles are supposed to lead towards the museum opening on Memorial Day of 2016. 2016!

Whatever happened to lighter, quicker, cheaper? The dumbest tag line in the embarrassingly pathetic history of Canalside is truly taking on its true meaning; dumber, slower, cheaper. So often you hear people rally towards “the waterfront we deserve” only to see the progress crawl along for half a decade.

The inclusion of Explore-n-More’s “Story of Buffalo Children’s Experience” isn’t necessarily the worst idea ever. I do think it is a mistake to place an attraction specifically geared towards children and parents with children, versus something that would attract everyone on one of the most pivotal pieces of property in Canalside.

What should embarrass everyone involved is the fact that the planning and construction of a museum is going to take four years. This goes beyond funny at this point to downright pathetic.

I understand that certain steps need to be taken towards building anything. This isn’t Sim City (although Tim Tielman is under a different understanding) and there are studies and approvals that need to go into any substantial building project. Obviously the fundraising effort that Explore-n-More will undertake will also require some legwork. But you can’t honestly say that construction, fundraising and the necessary studies will take four years to complete. Only in Buffalo would it take almost half a decade to build a children’s museum.

If I’m not mistaken, the ECHDC is going to be paying to build the structure which will hold this museum. Not only should that expedite the fundraising process, it should also expedite the process in which the building is – I don’t know – get built.

The inclusion of Explore-n-More at Canalside could be a good addition, but not in 2016.

The posturing and jerking around has gone on long enough. The time has come for the ECHDC to open up these parcels of land for development. I heard an interesting quote from the owner of Flying Bison which basically says that some businesses are getting scared away from the waterfront because of the RFP process. Perhaps that process should change. If homegrown businesses want to go down to Canalside and build a brand new brewery (and likely a restaurant), there should be nothing stopping them from fast tracking that development. Instead, it seems as if projects are getting slowed to a halt by ridiculous policies and studies.

Byron Brown wants the RFP process for the Webster Block to be taken care of by the city and to be fast tracked. Brown wants the construction of any project to be started almost immediately on a piece of land that was to be held by the ECHDC. Think he realized that this group isn’t capable of doing much more than coming up with pretty pictures? I’d guess he grew tired of watching renderings and announcements without a single speck of progress aside from the #ECShack.

Until there is a massive culture change with regard to Canalside, it will forever be a district that takes two steps forward and one step back. Wait. Scratch that, reverse it. The children’s museum may not have been the best direction to follow, but it was a step forward. Now the process to get it built is complicated and backwards. The same can be said of the canals, concerts, and options for food.

Eventually there will be something built at Canalside and on the waterfront. But I doubt that it will be what any of us truly deserve.

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