The Great Northern Situation Lacks a Good Solution

Protracted preservation battles have become something of a cottage industry in these parts. In fact, you might just call it an industry for some.

The latest battle has centered around the Great Northern grain elevator after the building’s northern wall collapsed. The usual players have taken sides for and against demolition after it was announced Archer Daniels Midland planned to bring the building down.

News has been mostly good for those hoping to save the structure as they won another favorable ruling in court this week. Doug Jemal has also expressed interest in buying the structure in order to preserve it. What exactly his plans would be are unknown, but if there’s a developer in the area capable of actually saving the building, it would be Jemal.

Tim Tielman came out from under his bridge to get his obligatory quotes in The Buffalo News while other developers such as Rocco Termini and Paul Ciminelli have voiced their support in saving the structure. It’s a good sign for those who hope to keep the elevator intact that Jemal has shown the propensity to hit the ground running with projects he takes on. Something that the preservation community in Western New York has not done.

Whether or not that means the structure should be saved, I’m not sure. I think there are just as many good reasons to keep it as there are reasons to bring it down.

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ECHDC should consider art to compliment grain elevator lighting project

Canalside proper isn’t the only area of Buffalo’s waterfront getting dressed up with art. The Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator will be lit up this summer (maybe fall?) as part of Erie Canal Harbor Development Company’s plan to light the grain elevators up and down the Buffalo River.

Exactly when the rest of the elevators will be lit is anyone’s guess, however. After ECHDC approved the original master plan to light the elevators and bridges along the river, it was later announced that only the Connecting Terminal Elevator would be getting the lighting treatment which was disappointing despite the impressive capabilities that the project will have.

While we wait to see if ECHDC will change their course thanks to the Ohio Street streetscape project and increased interest in that corridor, the Connecting Terminal will be lit this year. Original reports pointed to July 4th as the unveiling date but it is expected to be pushed closer to the fall at this point.

It’s about time that the Connecting Terminal Elevator was list. It’s a hulking figure along the waterfront and it needs to be changed from a looming eyesore into something that compliments the surrounding area. One thing I wish was considered was adorning the face of the elevator (on both sides) with a large mural as opposed to simply using the lighting project.

The lighting project will be a terrific installation and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the execution. But with sunset so late in the day in the summertime and the expected operating hours of the lighting itself being somewhat limited (especially in the summer months), the elevator will still be standing as nothing more than a grey monolith for most of the day.

Why not paint a mural on it that can be enjoyed during the day and at night? Continue reading

Silo City Rocks bringing more life to the water

The towering concrete behemoths that dot Buffalo’s waterfront have been a point of contention in recent years as various agencies and businesses scratch for space along the river and lakefront. Among the many ideas people have had for Buffalo’s grain elevators, Jason Schwinger has put the wheels in motion on a groundbreaking idea.

A look into the area that will soon host bouldering.

Schwinger – adequately dubbed an entrepreneur of fun on the Silo City Rocks Indiegogo (please, please donate) page – is a partner with BFLO Harbor Kayak, has begun work to convert a major portion of the Marine A grain elevator on the Buffalo River into an indoor and outdoor climbing center. Silo City Rocks will be the name of the new venture that will feature a world record climb of 190 feet. Silo City Rocks will be a planned stop for those renting kayaks or paddleboards from BFLO Harbor Kayak and will also work in partnership with Campus Wheel Works.

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Marine A complex that is nestled into the back corner of the Silo City complex that is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic landscape of massive, towering buildings and barren ground. However, Silo City Rocks will bring life to an area that has been beginning to see more interest.

The vision is to bring bouldering, rock climbing, yoga and numerous other activities to the elevator. While the project will not use every square foot of the grain elevator – it is truly one of the most awe-inspiring places to wander through – it will use a handful of the interior silos along with numerous areas on the exterior of the elevator. This will go from a grain elevator to a man-made mountain, in many ways. Continue reading

Getting behind lighting the grain elevators

Yesterday’s post on the decision to accept proposals for a children’s museum at Canalside was particularly venomous. There was a bit of Canalside news that came out yesterday afternoon that I did want to address.

It would seem that ECHDC is prepared to shell out some dough to light up grain elevators along Buffalo’s waterfront. Without coming across as a complete hypocrite, I have to say the plan to light the grain elevators is a good one. I’m a pretty well documented opponent of the lighter, quicker, cheaper approach, but this is an instance where the strategy makes sense.

The grain elevators that line the Buffalo River are great cathedrals of Buffalo’s industrial past. They’re so formidable that they’re virtually impossible to demolish – without ridiculous overhead – and they possess a “rugged masculinity” in terms of architecture. The simple fact that these behemoths are so massive and immovable makes them a potential albatross for waterfront development. Finding a simple use of them is nearly the only solution.

A very rough mock-up of how the Connecting Terminal Elevator could look.

There are options out there for utilizing the elevators for something other than a movie screen. However, such plans would be ridiculously expensive and quite difficult to pull off. Personally, I’d love to see the Connecting Terminal (pictured) serve as the terminus for a full tour of Buffalo’s grain elevators. If possible, the roof could be reinforced and renovated to provide the foundation for a grain elevator museum with unparalleled views of the lake, river and city. The museum would be the starting and ending point for a tour that would take people up the river through to elevator alley to teach all about the history of the grain elevator in Buffalo and around the country. Not to mention, a museum on top of the Connecting Terminal would look fantastic.

For the time being, it would seem as if public art and LED lighting will have to do regarding the use of Buffalo’s grain elevators. Like I said, this is a great decision.

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