Signs of progress downtown

The Buffalo News got a new sign last week that looks out onto the 190 as you travel west entering the city. The sign is a nice addition to the otherwise nondescript building that sits in a prominent section of downtown.

The new sign adds to the growing trend of adding signs (or flags) to downtown buildings which were previously left bare, something that has seemingly sprung up quickly in recent years.

While adding signs to buildings is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, it’s not something that’s lost on me. Not in the least. I’ve traveled enough as an adult to take stock in what’s cool and what stinks in various cities around the country. One thing I picked up on while I was in school was Buffalo’s general lack of major corporate or hotel flags. At the time I was in college we were still on the first set of renderings for Canalside, the Aud was still standing and the Adam’s Mark was one of two actual flags in the downtown core.

Meanwhile, you could (and can) cruise through just about any other city you wish to name and see corporate flags adorning buildings no matter where you looked. I’m glad to see Buffalo following this trend. Maybe it’s a little superficial to think of and it certainly isn’t important, but I don’t think it should be overlooked either.

While the sign at the News is now the most prominent, it joins the tastefully done signage at One Canalside – whose Thurway-level truss sign for the Courtyard is terrific – along with whatever may adorn HarborCenter in the Arena/Canal District.

Further uptown, the new signage at the Tishman looks good and is highly visible from the Thruway while 250 Delaware has been shown with the Delaware North flag in previous renderings. However, it’s just as likely that the Key Bank or Westin flag may wind up on the glass façade, but that remains to be seen. The shuffling of Key Bank might leave the Key Center without a corporate flag, although I’m holding out for IBM to grace their tower with their logo.

Sure, Ellicott’s radial street grid makes the city’s layout easy to navigate and our parks are almost second to none. But a vast majority of visitors are going to wonder why so many buildings don’t seem to be occupied long before they realize anything about a street grid.This may be nothing more than a case of keeping up with the Joneses, but I do think there’s something to be said for Buffalo having the look of a real city. Maybe lifelong Buffalonians or those who cling to our historic past don’t appreciate this point of view, but people who come to Buffalo from out of town notice these things.

The other thing this does, at least for me, is produce excitement. It’s exciting to see Marriot and Hilton signs up downtown. It’s exciting to know that companies (new and established) are taking the time to make an investment that signifies their footprint in our city. There may be a lull with this type of action at 250 Delaware and HarborCenter are buttoned up, but there is a clear precedent that has been set, and that’s incredibly exciting.

I’m looking forward to the Erie Canal Harbor Corporation realizing they’re lagging behind and setting a strict standard on how buildings can be signed as they’re built (whenever that day might come). Maybe ECHDC will also realize that Canalside itself deserves a sign and get one installed on one of the many prominent corners in the district. It wouldn’t hurt. Swannie House has gotten in on the fun too. As minor as this may be, it’s hardly off base.

There are far more exciting things happening downtown. At some point in the next decade ECHDC will implement the lighting project on the grain elevators along the river. One Seneca ought to have a new owner soon enough and perhaps even some new tenants. Eventually we may even see more construction within Canalside proper.

It’s an exciting time downtown. A new stadium is likely on the way and suddenly we’re starting to look more and more like similarly sized cities around the country. There’s very little to complain about and it’s exciting to see the literal and figurative signs of progress all over downtown.

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