Time for the next step after the debut of Ice at Canalside

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.Canalside

The three parcels that sit on the South Aud Block are shovel ready with plans for Explore & More to take up the largest of the three parcels with a restaurant and information center to occupy the other two, respectively. An RFP was issued for designs last year and now ECHDC is seeking a developer for the site. They even have pretty pictures which may or may not have no bearing on what the chosen developer builds.

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

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

Canalside public hearing coming soon; but what about more construction?

Don’t worry, Buffalo. The waterfront you deserve is well on its way and will arrive in 2031. That is if everything goes according to plan.

ECHDC is set to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, December 5 to discuss and detail the revised master plan for Canalside. For those of you who have a vested interest in the development of this fair city and the waterfront, this will be a great event to take in. Unfortunately my work schedule will not allow me to attend.

However, the revised master plan is available for public digestion on the ECHDC website (www.eriecanalharbor.com) and is certainly worth a look. It details nearly everything one could think of regarding the current and future development of the parcels surrounding the Buffalo River. It also details the expected date of completion, 2031. That’s right, in just under 20 years Buffalo should have the waterfront it deserves. Twenty. Years. Continue reading

Change to Canalside parcel isn’t all bad

A few weeks ago ECHDC made an announcement that appeared to be a significant scale back of a portion of the Canalside development. They have since clarified their stance on the portion of land that makes up the space immediately south of One Canalside and the development parcel known as the “South Block”.

The original reportspointed to a plan that would not only minimize the water element of the parcel, but eliminate the potential for development of the South Block. However, ECHDC stepped up and clarified their stance, pointing to a re-worked plan for the area more so than an overhaul.

The circle indicates the next portion of Canalside that will be constructed.

On Friday, Buffalo Rising came forward with more details on the project and how it will come together. The canal will indeed be scaled back to more of a shallow reflecting pool on a canal path. However, there will be elements added to the canal path that will alter the way it will look.Rather than to simply toss in another historically aligned, but ultimately faux canal, the majority of the canal will be covered with a paved tree grove with only a portion of the canal pool being exposed. As BRO details, channels will run through the grove so that the water will still be visible.

When ECHDC clarified some of their planning for this, Tom Dee explained that he saw this as becoming a very cool place that people will want to hang out in. I have to say that I agree. While I originally bemoaned the thought of another piece of the master plan being significantly scaled back, I now feel that this will be addition by addition. I’d say addition by subtraction, but this is actually adding quite a bit more to the space.

The addition of the tree grove and paved portion of the canal should actually serve as a far more effective link between Washington St. and the rest of Canalside. In addition, it will also confine the potential pitfalls of not building One Canalside out to the curb. Rather than the space between One Canalside, the South Block, Washington and Main being relatively sparse; this will actually add a bit more density and should also give more of a reason for people to mingle. Continue reading

Change to Canalside parcel strips potential development, Because it’s Buffalo

More public green space and less room for commercial development; that’s exactly what Buffalo’s central waterfront development project needs.

Business First ran a storyabout a pair of changes that will be made to a parcel of Canalside property in the next 12 months that will significantly alter the density and urban feel to the area. The change will also make a significant alteration to something that so many preservationists fought so hard for.

The canal and parcel on the left side of this photo have been drastically altered by the ECHDC.

The portion of the Donovan Building property that fronts Scott St. between Washington and Main was originally supposed to be the home for a low-rise strip of development with a canal roped between One Canalside (Donovan Building) and the “south block” as it is called.

The ECHDC has now decided that property is better suited to serve as additional green space with shady areas to sit. What about the canal? That will now turn into a reflecting pool – which is pretty much what the re-routed canals are anyway thanks to the Hamburg Drain.

To review, the ECHDC has deemed that a parcel of potential retail and commercial development replete with a canal just outside of the building will be better off as a lawn with a pool of water that will likely be shallower than what the foot-and-a-half canals will already be.

Canalside was enjoying plenty of positive momentum thanks to a year of actual development announcements and the commencement of other projects. Between the construction on the canals, One Canalside being in full swing and the announcement of HARBORcenter, Canalside was not only becoming a central location for serious development but was gaining the critical mass that the region has been waiting for since the first master plan was unveiled for the area. Continue reading

Ted Black wants major NHL events, is the city ready?

Ted Black came out of this weekend’s board of governors meeting with a mission that he has trumpeted many times over the past 12 months. He wants to host anything and everything related to the NHL.

Whether it be the All-Star Game, Draft, Winter Classic or something so cool we haven’t even heard of it, Black and the Sabres want in. Unfortunately the Columbus Blue Jackets will host the 2013 All-Star Game before the event is skipped for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, being passed over for next season may be in the best interest for the Sabres as a team (and management) and the City of Buffalo.

Frozen canals and real attractions would make a great venue for All-Star festivities.

First of all, it is totally awesome to think that Ted Black is going into every BOG meeting and lobbying for the Sabres to host the any major NHL event. This is just another one of those tangible examples of what this ownership group is doing to make Buffalo “Hockey Heaven”.

Going into All-Star weekend, 2012 Draft and 2013 Winter Classic hosts had already been chosen. Also, considering the Leafs will be the visitors for the next Classic, it is safe to assume the Leafs will be due to host in the near future. The decision on who would host next year’s All-Star game was to be made this weekend; giving Black the opportunity to pull for Buffalo as the hosts.

With Columbus hosting next season and the Olympics likely cancelling the 2014 event, the next All-Star Game without a host will be 2015. Looking at all the secondary factors; that should be the game Buffalo pushes to host.

To begin, First Niagara Center is a perfect arena to host an All-Star game or any other major NHL event.  Between the original features (pavilion, Harbour Club, congregating areas) and the new additions (laser beam Zambonis and locker room renovations), FNC is a class-A venue for any major event. It is the area outside the Arena that is ill prepared. Continue reading

Is Buffalo seriously this cursed?

I was driving through downtown today when I realized; Buffalo has been treading water for the past 10+ years.

There is so much potential for new development and exciting new projects, yet nothing ever gets off the ground. Start in 1997 when the new Peace Bridge was supposed to go up – hope nobody is still holding their breath on that one. Better yet, 2001, Bass Pro signaled that they wanted an anchor store in Buffalo, a short time later they earmarked The Aud as their ideal location. Today, Bass Pro has opened a gazillion (probably more like 10) new stores all over North America. WTF. Continue reading