It’s been a long time since this much news has come out about Canalside in such a short period of time. Aside from one small announcement that ECHDC will be waiting to develop the north portion of the Aud Block it’s been all great news for the epicenter of Buffalo’s waterfront development.
Today’s news included a report that Pizza Plant will be occupying the ground floor retail space in One Canalside and adding another food and entertainment option to the area around Canalside and the arena. The best part of that news is that there’s potential to see Pizza Plant open and operating right around the same time that HARBORCENTER and (716) open their doors.
Another report indicated that Pizza Plant and (716) will have company along Washington Street as Benderson has begun to work on developing a yet to be unnamed beer garden for the South Block. The Buffalo News report says the beer garden is at least a year away, which would probably slate it for a late-2015 opening.
What’s interesting is that Benderson and the ECHDC are being somewhat secretive other than indicating that the project will be built on the South Block parcel located along Scott Street immediately south of the East Canal Park. The parcel was previously slated to provide for up to 14,000 square feet of retail space with 65 residences on the upper floors of a three to four story building (the building on the right hand side of the entry image).
The lack of specific details on the building slated for the South Block has led me to connect the dots with another upcoming Buffalo beer garden project that received quite a bit of press in May. Kevin Townsell owns the franchise rights for the Hofbrauhaus franchise in the region and is planning on opening a Hofbrauhaus beer garden within the next year or so.
Townsell held back on a few details on his project, specifically the exact location. However, he did indicate it will be downtown and within walking distance to Canalside. The project will include seating for 600 inside and a patio that will seat 300 more.
There are more than a few indicators that connect these two projects together but none more telling than the plan for the restaurant is 14,000 square feet. Add in that Townsell said the site will be within walking distance of Canalside, he’s been working on the plans for over two years (roughly the time it took to finalize One Canalside and the East Canal) and the similar timelines that Townsell and ECHDC have mentioned. To recap the connections:
- The original plan for the South Block called for a building with 14,000 square feet of retail an previous reports on Hofbrauhaus indicate that the restaurant will occupy 14,000 square feet
- Townsell has indicated that the location will be “within walking distance of Canalside” but hasn’t tipped his hand further
- Benderson has been equally coy about the plans for the recently announced beer garden
- There have been no other rumors of a beer garden outside of Townsell’s Hofbrauhaus project
- Both Townsell and Benderson have indicated similar timelines for their respective projects
My lone worry about this project is the overall density it will bring. Previous renderings and plans have called for a building that is at least two stories in height, if not taller. It would be a shame if the building was downgraded to only one story (as many of the Hofbrauhaus beer gardens are) and wound up falling outside of the Canalside design standards. This building needs to stay within the design standards for Canalside and needs to provide some vertical density along with filling in a key parcel on what is going to be a very busy corner.
Seeing the progress made with the Aud Block bridges and the plans for Explore-N-More and the additional buildings on the South Aud Block coming together has been an awesome sign for this district. However, the willingness of two private entities to put their businesses in the heart of the district shows the potential for the development parcels to begin to fill in.
Hofbrauhaus (if it is slated for the South Block) and Pizza Plant joins the rapidly rising HARBORCENTER project as private investments in what has been a slow moving public project. Clearly the momentum has finally built to the point that Canalside is ready for private investment.
It’s been a long time coming but signs point to late 2015 or perhaps mid-summer of 2016 being a serious coming out party for Canalside and Buffalo’s waterfront.