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.
There really was never going to be much of a question over where the Bills new stadium was going to be built. While the conversation over a downtown or Orchard Park site was a valuable one to have, the die was cast when the Bills released their report indicating their preference to build in Orchard Park.
“Concerned” downtown developers can turn their attention to other causes now that Governor Hochul said the state will accept the Bills’ preferred site across Abbott Rd. in Orchard Park. The Pegulas held the hammer on this and barring extraordinary circumstances, the state and county were always going to play ball with regard to where they wanted to build (humorous as it may be considering they’re asking the public to pay for so much of this project).
Maintaining the status quo in Orchard Park is a fine conclusion to this process. The Bills can continue to play next door to their training facilities and offices, the fans get to keep tailgating and the price tag will be slightly more palatable for all parties involved. A more streamlined construction schedule and lower land acquisition costs all add up as positive factors for a new stadium in Orchard Park.
The limitations of a suburban stadium will remain as well. Below average access and limited offseason uses being chief among them.
We certainly don’t lose anything with the construction of a new stadium in Orchard Park. But we don’t really gain anything either, and I think that’s the one lasting question I’ll have once the new building is finished. What, if anything, will we have missed by not building in the city? There are many, many issues at play, but there are a few overarching topics which probably needed more attention than they got.
With the World Junior Championship just days away, the Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment have released additional details on the attractions they’ll be offering to fans outside the 31-games at HarborCenter and KeyBank Center.
Chief among them is the Championship Village which will occupy space in Canalside directly adjacent to HarborCenter. Dotting the cobblestone streets will be a large, enclosed tent sponsored by Labatt Blue, a warming area sponsored by Zippo, food trucks, a sledding hill, frozen jerseys, a hockey skills area and some sort of snowglobe attraction. It’s a nice offering even though it appears a little thin when viewed on the map tweeted by the main PSE account handling the event.
We're excited to announce the Championship Village! 🏆
The sledding hill will fill most, if not all of the block bounded by Lloyd, Prime and Hanover Streets, so the final product will be more robust than the graphic may illustrate. Although I’ve been left wondering if there is a missed opportunity to incorporate more of the international flair offered by an event like the WJC. Continue reading →
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.
Pegula’s purchase of the building throws his hat back into the Arena District development ring as it would be surprising if he didn’t have plans to renovate the five-story warehouse. While any talk about plans would be speculative, it’s my understanding that Pegula had been chasing this building for quite some time as a home for the Sabres offices. So unless plans have changed, I’d bet on the organization following that track.
Relocating the Sabres offices would make a lot of sense as it would open up a large space in the suite level – and directly above the Lexus Club – for development into a fan focused area. A specialized lounge in the suite level would not only give the team another money making outlet, it would add a brand new amenity to the 20 year-old arena. Continue reading →
The countdown to the 2018 World Junior Championships in on. We’re just about two years away, on the nose, from the start of the tournament which will culminate in early January 2018.
That’s two full years before the eyes of (most of) the hockey world are directed on Buffalo. Two years to plan and two years to prepare the city.
Based on Buffalo’s previous run as a host in 2011 and subsequent USA Hockey and IIHF events hosted in Buffalo, it’s clear that the Sabres organization has their ducks in a row when it comes to hosting international events. I have little doubt that the efforts made by the Sabres will eclipse the work that made the 2011 tournament a success.
While every ticket at the 2011 event wasn’t sold – in fact there were many Team USA games with open sections of seats – I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect a better turnout for 2018. That’s without taking the planned outdoor game into account. Western New York’s hockey culture continues to grow and if the participants are sold the right way I’d expect to see fans turn out well. One of the many goals that needs to be met by the 2018 WJC
The biggest area of opportunity, in my opinion, is how the players, media and fans who are converging on Buffalo will feel about the city. Two of the more infamous moments of the 2011 tournament were the criticisms leveled by European journalists and Emerson Etem of Team USA. Etem’s comments on the city brought boos from the home crowd whenever he touched the puck in following games. Having home fans boo one of Team USA’s own was terrific.
Obviously the city and region have grown quite a bit in the past five years. The improvements will certainly reflect well upon new and return visitors. However, there’s so much positive energy downtown that the World Junior tournament could serve as the catalyst to wrap up some of the most promising projects in the city. Continue reading →
Episode 4 of the Building Buffalo podcast touches on the 198 and the state of other major roadway projects that are in need of attention around WNY. We also discuss how the best integrate the Buffalo Zoo into Delaware Park in order to allow for future expansion of the Zoo itself.
Lastly, we talk about the recent news about Canalside and the need for immediate action in that district to ensure Buffalo’s most prominent entertainment district sees actual development this decade.
In episode two of the Building Buffalo Podcast, Tom and I discuss the gondola project that has been gaining press and momentum as of late and the need for greater focus on projects throughout the city that need more attention. We also spend some time talking about the negative impact obstructionists have had on progress in WNY and where we’re headed despite the actions of a loud minority.
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 →