Buffalo can take a page from Cleveland’s book on a waterfront project

You may have heard that Cleveland has been on a bit of a run lately. Similar to Buffalo, Cleveland has been working to reinvigorate their downtown core and much of their work is paying off as the 2016 Republican National Convention will descend upon the burning river. lakefrontpedestriandrawbridge_01

Much of what’s happening in Cleveland, however, is working to shake the opinion that it’s a rust laden burg with little to offer. In fact, the city planning in Cleveland over the past 30 or 40 years wasn’t nearly as bad as Buffalo’s which has given our Ohio cousins a bit of a headstart when it comes to revitalization. Cleveland is on the brink of adding countless new projects to their books that probably would labor in public hearings and subcommittees in Western New York for months (if not years) before dying on the vine or being drastically scaled back before construction.

For example, Cleveland will soon be home to a gleaming 28-story Hilton hotel tower that will connect with their convention center as an anchor for major national and international conventions. Buffalo’s bunker of a convention center is so far obsolete that any such hotel project would be a non-starter, but I can hear the cries from Donn Esmonde and his cronies about the lack of architectural integrity and historical consideration based on the sleek tower’s design.

Buffalo does have plenty to brag about. HARBORCENTER will be hosting games and serving up food at (716) before the month is over, the Embassy Suites anchor one of my favorite buildings in Buffalo and the Delaware North Tower is rising at an incredible clip. So don’t mistake consternation over Cleveland’s success for ignorance of everything great happening in Buffalo. In fact, Buffalo’s civic leaders ought to lift a page right out of Cleveland’s book.

One of the many projects that are working towards completion in Cleveland is a 143-foot pedestrian drawbridge that will connect portions of Cleveland’s lakefront. As the picture above shows, this is a visually pleasing bridge that will provide direct pedestrian access to an otherwise difficult to reach location. Sound familiar?

Buffalo will have a neat and convenient ferry that will shuttle people and bicycles from Canalside to the Outer Harbor in quick trips that will reduce or eliminate the need to even trek down a newly renovated Ohio St.  With the long-term plan of putting an at-grade bridge across the Buffalo River, why not look into a pedestrian bridge like the one above as a compliment to everything else that is being worked on?

The project cost of the Cleveland project is $5.5 million. That’s not small potatoes. Considering that any span across the Buffalo River would be nearly three or four times the length and the bridge would need to draw high enough to allow the lake freighters through as well. The easiest location would be to connect across near the end or Erie street or even at the mouth of the river across to the lighthouse walkway.

Unfortunately the shortest span would be at the mouth of the river and even that length would likely far surpass the $5.5 million price tag of the Cleveland bridge. I could see that making this a cost-prohibitive project. But maybe a bridge, combined with the new ferry and a renovated Ohio St., would buy more time for a vehicle bridge at the inner harbor. Maybe it’s simply time to strike out and add another signature item to our bustling waterfront.

 

 

Canalside wouldn’t be the only beneficiary of the Skyway’s removal

Run down a list of synonyms for eyesore and you’re bound to check off a number of phrases used to describe Buffalo’s Skyway. The elevated roadway has been the subject of debate for the last number of years as the clamor to bring it down continues to grow louder.

skyway mainThe arguments for its removal are obvious and well documented. It’s an antiquated roadway that not only causes headaches each year (due to its lack of shoulders) but now stands as a barrier against waterfront development in Buffalo as the roadway’s supports stand in the middle of prime space in the Outer Harbor and Canalside neighborhood. Plans to, at the very least, introduce an at-grade harbor bridge are moving along (slowly) with the goal being to provide a better alternative to using the Skyway for travelers on Route 5.

While the Skyway’s replacement is still at least two, if not three years away, it’s time to take serious action towards removing the Skyway as well.

Among the areas that will benefit most from removing the Skyway will be Canalside, as the parcels along the Central Wharf will be completely free for development as opposed to how they appear today. However, the corner of Pearl and Seneca Streets will also see a massive amount of space open up thanks to the removal of the ramp connecting the Skyway to the 190. Three areas on Pearl St. along with another that runs along Perry Blvd. will be open for business after previously sitting relatively dormant under the Skyway.

These blocks could serve as an extension of Canalside and bridge the growing district with the downtown core. Without any specific residential plans set for the area around Canalside at this point, these blocks – particularly the current parking lot across from Pearl St. – could be developed as residential infill to continue to draw permanent residents to this portion of the city. Continue reading

Infastructrue needs to be considered with any stadium project

The Bills are in desperate need of a new stadium. This is a truth that is evident to just about anyone who pays attention to the team. Where that new stadium should be built has been a hot topic amongst that same group who sees the writing on the aging walls of the Ralph.

The Outer Harbor – a destination many Buffalonians would love to see – is the location for an incredibly ambitious and somewhat improbable proposal pitched by a new group today. One thing that didn’t seem to be fully considered with this project is the inevitable infrastructure issues that will accompany it.

The proposal that includes a stadium, convention center, hotel, retail and 5,000 parking spots for a low, low price of $1.4 billion doesn’t really accommodate for the 72,000 fans that will be coming down ten days a year.

While the Outer Harbor has plenty of space to accommodate surface parking, the park going crowds would certainly take issue with the idea of swaths of pavement being laid down throughout the Outer Harbor. Of course, that is probably the only feasible option regardless of any solution that would be brought forward.

Parking isn’t even the most concerning portion of this, however. At the end of the day the lots will take care of themselves. There is space to provide surface parking that won’t impact current and any future development out that way. Parking ramps are always an option as well, especially those with ground-level retail to complement the proposed retail portion of this project.

Based on the renderings, the Skyway and Route 5 will be the primary arteries to funnel cars to the area with surface streets like Ohio St., Tift, and Ridge also connecting directly to Route 5 and Furhman Blvd. Yet, Furhman is a two-lane boulevard that would be more than overwhelmed with the type of traffic that accompanies a Bills game. The last thing Buffalo wants is to have a two-lane road leading to their stadium. It is exactly what people complain about in Foxboro. Traffic in Orchard Park is tough enough to handle on gamedays and Abbot, Southwestern and 20A are all four-lanes wide (20A is two lanes but the shoulders serve as lanes on gameday). If the traffic in OP is rough, multiply it by ten on the Outer Harbor. Continue reading