The battle over what should occupy Buffalo’s waterfront has been roaring for the better part of two decades, as the early aughts brought us Bass Pro, an evolving vision for Canalside and eventually to where we are now. Which is, to say, not too far off from where we started.
Much of the progress we’ve seen has come in spite of the hucksters who weasel their way into any project of merit whose developer isn’t formidable enough to shoo them away. Other opportunities have been outright lost due to the pervasive obstructionists that seeps into much of the public discourse in the city. The Aud has been gone for over 10 years and we still have the empty pit to show for it.
That hasn’t kept Buffalo’s resident carnival barkers, the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, from concocting silly plans for projects he has no stake in. The group’s latest venture is a suspension bridge meant to connect the Inner and Outer Harbors. It’s a terrific idea until you see the route chosen by the group for their million-dollar deathtrap.
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.
Enduring a years-long process of redesigns, stops and starts seems to be a rite of passage for virtually every project in and around Buffalo’s waterfront. It’s not different for the DL&W train shed as the NFTA and various stakeholders push to redevelop the building into something that can better complement the Cobblestone District and Canalside.
You can go back at least to 2009 to find references to the DL&W becoming a more integral part of the waterfront entertainment district. Much like the pit at the North Aud Block, or the hockey team across the street, not much has been done in the ensuing 12 years.
There has been progress, of course. The new NFTA station on the first floor is under construction. While continuous rounds of renderings can be silly, a project plan under the guidance of Sam Savarino is coming together and it appears this project has reached a critical mass. It’s all very exciting as the building’s unique layout and location makes it an incredible asset for Buffalo’s waterfront.
The Canalside life cycle is an interesting animal. Once a windswept parking lot, it has grown to one of the most impressive attractions in Western New York as it inches towards completion. Yet, despite all of the positive momentum, the overall project remains beset by hiccups and delays.
Among the most glaring is the utter lack of permanent development outside of One Canalside (which was already there) and HarborCenter (handled by the city and the Pegulas). The historically aligned, replica canals are a visual marvel but the rest of the area is lagging behind. Make no mistake, the progress that has been made at Canalside is nothing short of impressive as there are signs of truly great things on the horizon. The warts are still quite visible, however.
Just today, The Buffalo News indicated that if an expected 2017 groundbreaking for Hofbrauhaus on the East Canal Parcel isn’t met that the German beer haus would move to the Cobblestone District. That’s certainly a win for the Parking Cobblestone District; it’s also a blow for Canalside. Filling the parcel between HarborCenter and One Canalside would add even more density to the already bustling corner while providing a new brick-and-mortar attraction for Canalside visitors to frequent with mixed use space on the second and third floors. By failing to move the underground utility lines, the city and ECHDC have let a key development parcel sit fallow while leaving Hofbrauhaus in a three-year holding pattern. Continue reading →
At some point in the past I joked that I’d have kids by the time Canalside was developed. Somehow that joke turned out to be a bit more prophetic than I’d planned.
It’s no secret that Canalside is being developed at a snail’s pace. The waterfront gem that draws thousands each summer hasn’t seen any tangible additions since the historically aligned canals opened two years ago – completing a construction schedule riddled with delays. Now, with a child of my own, I’m left to find a new joke to make about the progress at Canalside.
Congressman Brian Higgins recently spoke out against ECHDC for their relative inaction in fulfilling the development portion of their mission. Ironically, that’s what the D in ECHDC stands for. Higgins’ comments came in a Buffalo News article on September 10 which I should have addressed in this space earlier, but I’ve been following an ECHDC schedule in getting posts up as of late.
I thought it best to offer up an FJM, of sorts, as it pertains to the article in question as it came just prior to the shutdown of the Buffalo Amtrak station and new questions about relocating the station to an area within Canalside. So, what is to follow is less an FJM and more a running commentary on Higgins’ comments and the general outlook for Canalside as we near the end of another summer enjoying the waterfront destination.
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.
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 →
After getting a chance to cruise by Silent Poets last night, I have to say they’re incredibly impressive. The addition of Silent Poets is a definitive step forward for Canalside as the area is still lacking any semblance of permanence as it pertains to activities and attractions. This new piece of art is also a much larger statement when compared to Shark Girl, which has its own level of whimsy but certainly isn’t the jaw-dropping installation that Canalside needs.
Shark Girl certainly has her own rightful place in the Canalside landscape. In fact, her new home near the re-watered, historically aligned canals is perfect. The sculpture is nestled in nicely in what should be a highly trafficked area which should eventually allow Shark Girl to be a tremendous compliment to the greater Aud Block development. We just aren’t there yet, which is why so much of the hubbub regarding her installation rubbed the wrong way.
Many of Canalside’s parcels are set for development (despite how it looks), which means they’re hardly available for a massive installation like Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate. That being said, the goal should be to provide a permanent installation that draws crowds no matter what the weather is like. As impressive as Silent Poets is, I’m not sure it does the trick. Continue reading →
Tom (@husaria) and I got together for the first episode of the Building Buffalo Podcast. We suffered a slight glitch in the first half of the broadcast, so bear with us with the two separate links. We’ll make sure that it’s ironed out for the next episode.
This episode is slightly broad based with discussion on where we were and where we’re headed (as a region), the TMNT filming and the University at Buffalo. Please share any feedback or opinions on this episode. We look forward to building this into something that helps drive the conversation regarding Buffalo development and progress.
It was almost five years in the making, but the historically aligned canals at Canalside were finally opened last night marking another milestone in Buffalo’s waterfront development.
As was to be expected, the crowd at Canalside was massive and the numbers patronizing the new skating venue will likely continue to swell over the next few weeks. All told, this was a huge victory for Canalside, the Erie Canal Harbor Corporation and Buffalo as a whole. While one night doesn’t make for guaranteed long-term success, I hope that the ECHDC are spurred to get the next piece of development done well ahead of schedule.
Proposals from developers are due by January 9 and the ECHDC RFP notes that first round interviews will be held on or around January 22. So as of now, we’re well over a month away from identifying the developer for this site. The good news is that Explore & More has always been operating on a 2016 transition to the Canalside site, something noted in the ECHDC RFP documents. Putting two and two together tells me that once a developer is chosen, it shouldn’t be long before we see concrete being poured and structural steel rising; so long as ECHDC learned their lesson with the canals. Continue reading →
The fanfare surrounding HARBORCENTER isn’t going to die down soon. Nor should it. This is a phenomenal project that will inject all sorts of money and life into downtown Buffalo. It has the added flair of pissing off Tim Tielman and leaving him pouting in his open air bus, clutching to his construction paper and crayon “alternative”.
Just take a minute to look at that thing and tell me it’s not the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever seen. I can’t tell what’s more hysterical, the fishing huts along Main or the rink on a portion of the DL&W Terminal that isn’t currently a platform suitable for a rink.
Anyway, HARBORCENTER is going to be a boon for downtown, the waterfront, Canalside and the arena district as a whole. It has raised some concern over the First Niagara signage on the arena being obstructed and it has also obstructed a vast majority of First Niagara Center’s atrium. The former point probably isn’t all that important. Nor will it be all that difficult to address. The latter, however, should be addressed in some form or function.
However, in between portions of our most recent podcast, Eric (of 3rd Man In) and I got to talking about a few aspects of the arena and how the Sabres may be able to improve on the exterior of the building. Continue reading →