Looking back at Columbus from Buffalo’s perspective

I love traveling to other cities for a host of reasons. So often I come away disappointed knowing that Buffalo is missing so much compared to cities around the country but I also enjoy these trips because I often encounter features that could so easily be incorporated in the Nickel City.

My recent trip to Columbus was eye-opening. The Arena District is thriving and it is directly connected to two more walkable, diverse areas of the city (North Market and Short North). Admittedly, Short North is an easier drive from North Market and the Arena District than a walk. But I digress.

The Columbus Arena District is nothing short than the ideal template for developing a work-play district around a sports venue. Amazingly, it is a district that doesn’t rely solely on Nationwide Arena for survival, but uses the home of the Blue Jackets as a key cog in the operation.

Looking down a pedestrian walkway leading away from Nationwide Arena and towards a half dozen bars.
Looking down a pedestrian walkway leading away from Nationwide Arena and towards a half dozen bars.

In additional to Nationwide Arena, the district boasts Huntington Park – the picturesque home of the Columbus Clippers, Lifestyles Pavilion – a mid-sized concert venue and a host of mixed use buildings. Everything within the district is clad in brick and features design constraints consistent with what you might expect to see from an area replicating former warehouses or, perhaps, a historic canal district.

Just beyond the Arena District along Park Street, is the North Market which features a beautiful open market in an old brick warehouse nestled in a neighborhood with plenty of bars with plenty of patio space. The North Market anchors the small neighborhood which is a short 9-iron from the front door of Nationwide Arena. Another four or five blocks puts you smack in the middle of Short North, which is basically the Elmwood Village on steroids.

All of this is just about three miles from the center of Ohio State University and just over a mile from the center of downtown Columbus.

Spending a couple days in 60-degree weather amongst all of these cool, new bars and restaurants certainly gave me a fair bit of remorse for what we have going on in Buffalo these days. Our city is enjoying a resurgence that many citizens likely doubted would ever come. But when I look at Canalside’s Adirondack Chairs and functional lawns compared to the dozen or so mixed-use buildings surrounding Nationwide Arena I realize how far we still have to go.

We’re getting there, we’re just not nearly as close to having a truly thriving district as many of us might think. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.

 

 

Could Buffalo be Considered as a World Cup of Hockey Host?

The World Cup of Hockey will be returning. After a ten-year absence, the tournament will officially return in 2016. Per Pierre LeBrun’s report, it’s simply a matter of ironing out the final details of the agreement before making a formal announcement.

Re-instituting the World Cup could mean any number of things with some wondering if it means the league is bracing for a divorce from Olympic participation. Further, the timing of the tournament itself will likely fall prior to the regular season, which should ensure full participation of the world’s best players.

One advantage this tournament gives the league is greater control over the product being produced. Hand-picked venues avoid the time zone constraints created by many Olympic host cities (a primary concern regarding the next two Winter Games). The 2004 event saw games played in Toronto, Montreal, St. Paul, Helsinki, Stockholm, Cologne and Prague. Most of those venues also served the 1996 World Cup.

The 2016 event offers the league and the event’s organizers an chance to showcase another group of cities around the world and I have to wonder if Buffalo earns consideration as a host city. Continue reading

Flying Bison’s move would have been a steal for Canalside

For as much good is done at Canalside, it always feels like they’re missing out on the big score. Yet another piece of development news broke today regarding a project that should have been tailor made for Canalside.

As Jim Fink reports in Business First, Flying Bison is exploring a move to a new property in Larkinville in an effort to expand their burgeoning business. According to the report, Flying Bison is eyeing a 12,500 square foot building on Seneca Street for their new home. Here’s more from Fink:

Flying Bison plans on moving by March 2014 from its original home on Ontario Street to the new site. Since its 2000 inception, Flying Bison has leased its Ontario Street site and the building’s owner, DiVal Safety Equipment now needs the building for its own expansion needs.

Herzog said Flying Bison had pinpointed a pair of Michigan Avenue buildings, but those deals could not be completed.

The new building will allow Flying Bison to increase its output and also develop an indoor beer garden/tasting room as part of the tours that regularly take place at the brewery.

Sure 12,500 square feet is big. But would a brewery have not been a killer attraction for Canalside? Think of having Flying Bison’s new brewery (and restaurant?) situated on the Northwest corner of the Aud Block overlooking the recreated canals and facing towards the river, Arena and the rest of Canalside. Instead we continue to wait on the faux historically aligned canals to be completed let alone see any sort of significant construction towards attracting additional tenants to the district. Note: One Canalside and HARBORcenter are both tremendous projects that show how vitally important private interest and investment in the area will be. Continuing to miss out on these types of opportunities is the issue at hand. Continue reading

#SupportSally

You may have seen some posts, Tweets and other correspondence floating around the Buffalo sports blog-o-sphere today regarding #SupportSally.

#SupportSally is a movement that has been taken up by The Scizz and all the other guys at The Deeg in support of their friend, and Buffalo ex-pat, Matt Kabel and his daughter Sally.

Sally is Matt’s 10-month old daughter and was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She has her own website and I’d highly recommend reading through the site to learn a little bit more about this courageous young lady. I’d also urge you to read more about the relationship that Matt and Scizz have developed as Bills fans in NYC.

You can also chip in to support the cause with the #SupportSally t-shirt that is being sold by Store716. All proceeds from the sales of the shirt are going directly to Sally’s fight and Store716 is handling all shipping as well. This is a tremendous cause and I hope to see plenty of #SupportSally shirts at Bills games and around Western New York.

Click here to make your donation to #SupportSally and order your t-shirt.

Boston offers hints for Buffalo’s future

I took another roadie to a city with quite a bit of history and tradition this past weekend. Wouldn’t you know it, there are plenty of ideas staring you right in the face that make you wonder, “why isn’t this being done in Buffalo?”

The belly of Quincy Market. The food court stretches down the hall in both directions on the bottom floor.

The city I visited was Boston. I caught a Dispatch concert that absolutely kicked ass and I was able to taking the area in and around TD Garden (the USRT boys certainly know this area) and I was able to stroll many a city block taking in the history and architecture of that great city. I also hung out a Quincy Market, an ideal template for some of the questions floating around Canalside and the waterfront.

I will first say this, I understand that Boston is one of the oldest American cities with boatloads more history and tradition than Buffalo. I also am well aware that Boston dwarfs the Queen City in size. But that is ok. What I want to focus on are key cogs, not the big picture.

No beating around the bush, though. Quincy Market is EXACTLY what Buffalo needs. I mean E-X-A-C-T-L-Y. It is filled with shopping and eateries in an open market setting. There is room for kiosks – for those functional lawn fans who only want t-shirts being sold – while having, gasp, national chain retailers as well. Basically, it is like taking parts of the Galleria Mall and turning them inside out so people can enjoy the weather while they shop. By the way, the snow argument doesn’t really hold water considering Boston’s geographic location. Continue reading