Consulting for less progress

By the time the historically aligned, 18-inch deep canals are complete at Canalside, over $300,000 will have been spent on consultants for the developing district.

I’d consult that these lawns turn into buildings.

Buffalo Rising, yesterday reported that Biederman Redevelopment Ventures will be contracted for no more than $253,455 to serve as a public space consultant for ECHDC. Tack that onto the $100,000+ paid to power point and Google image touting Fred Kent.

Here are a few cherry picked quotes from the BRO article:

…the consultant will expand the Canalside vision and activation plan from the Central Wharf area to the former Memorial Auditorium block. The purpose is to further enhance Canalside as a regional destination, attract a diverse and growing audience, and support the public amenities currently under construction.

BRV’s scope of work will include leading a public workshop to solicit ideas from the general public; identifying key issues, opportunities, partners, audiences and technical items (such as availability of power, lighting, ADA access); developing principles and themes that describe each environment, their inter-relationships, as well as the former Aud Block’s connection to Canalside; developing a program plan of activities for Canalside on the Aud Block for 2013; and developing two signature Canalside ideas (e.g., physical amenities, events, festivals, programs) for summer 2013 and winter 2013, among other tasks.

The article goes on to state that the canal construction will serve as a key area for development under this consultation along with the functional lawns that border the Central Wharf.

It is all fine and dandy that ECHDC identified the need to bring in someone with so much experience in operating public areas; but at what point will ECHDC actually take action on actually developing Canalside? Hell, it took Terry Pegula getting fed up with looking at a windblown patch of dirt to get the rest of the lawns in place down there. I suppose he will need to get angry about the lack of buildings before anything is ever actually built.

BRV is supposed to host a workshop to solicit ideas from the public. Unless they bar all of the loony toons from gaining access, BRV will be peddling bocce ball, hula hoops and hop-scotch as their big ideas for Canalside. Remember, public access and lighter, quicker and cheaper is the wave of the future.

I do trust that BRV will be capable of identifying the need for a uniform look in terms of lighting, signage and other amenities. After all, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that the look and feel of the district should reflect – as Andrew Kulyk puts it – Ye Olde Canal District.

The most intriguing portion of this announcement is that BRV is expected to come up with a pair of “signature ideas” for summer and winter of 2013. Now, that has the potential to be as big as actual development or as flimsy as the crowdsourced public programming that is currently be touted as progress.

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Reflections from the Basement Party: The Sabres and the Webster Block

With only a few days remaining until the City of Buffalo awards the winning bid to those who put in an RFP for the Webster Block, it seems as if the Buffalo Sabres are hoping for another off ice victory.

While Ted Black didn’t show his hand during yesterday’s New Media Summit, he certainly indicated that the Sabres do have a vested interest in the development of the area right outside their front door. After briefly discussing Terry Pegula’s $120,000 gift to complete the lawns at Canalside, Black pointed to the organization’s interest in potentially being involved in developing the Webster Block.

There have been plenty of rumors floating around the internet about what the Sabres may be doing down near the arena, but this certainly backs up what had originally been reported by the News and Business First. With the RFP slated to be announced on the 15th, I expect the Sabres will be holding their breath in hopes of having the winning bid.

Personally, I would imagine that Pegula’s donation was done as a first step of the Sabres’ full interest in that part of the neighborhood. I would imagine that the Sabres have to be the front runner for this RFP simply because I would imagine their proposed project would offer the most return for the neighborhood and city as a whole.

One other thing that was brought up by Black and the Sabres is their involvement in potentially earning the right to host NHL events like the Draft or an All-Star Game. He made a comment that not only pointed to their interest and influence (whether direct or indirect) in the area around the arena.

When addressing the Sabres’ interest in these special events, Black made an indirect reference to some comments made by Emerson Etem and European reporters who made disparaging comments about the city and the lack of activities. Black said that the team and city want to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward and leaving visitors with the best opinion of Buffalo possible. He then said that having a large construction pit right outside the arena would not be ideal, especially if an All-Star Game is on the way.

Based on the conversation with Black, the next possible All-Star Game the Sabres will make a run at will be in 2015, giving three more years for Canalside, the Webster Block and the Donovan Building to be built out and develop. From where I’m sitting Black and Pegula are fully aware of how difficult it is to get anything done by the water and they don’t want the same embarrassment that was suffered during the World Junior Tournament.

While the forum in which Black’s statements were given may not get the most publicity, they should certainly carry a lot of weight to those who make decisions in Buffalo. Continue reading

Canalside and Explore-n-More: Why Buffalo can’t have nice things

Comparing development projects to fables probably isn’t a very good strategy. Typically the first one to the finish line is the project that finds the most success. However, those in charge of planning, approving and building Canalside seem to think slow and steady wins the race.

Canalside: coming, spring 2030! (Date subject to change)

After putting out an RFP for organizations to pitch for museum space to be built on the former Aud site, ECHDC is allowing Explore-n-More to move forward with the initial study for the children’s museum they plan on building at Canalside.

According to Buffalo Rising, Explore-n-More will begin to determine the size, configuration, exhibit space, capital and operational costs of the “Children’s Experience” that will occupy a major section of the Aud Block. This exploratory phase will also determine if Explore-n-More will be capable of raising the necessary funds – to which ECHDC will match on a $1 to $2 basis – to run such a museum. The BRO report also details that a public involvement plan will be implemented as part of the Master Plan process in addition to a Capital Campagin Feasibility Study for another portion of another Master Plan.

All of this nonsense will be compiled as part of a Final Museum Master Plan based on a Feasibility Study and public input which will be completed in May of 2013 before being submitted to the ECHDC and Explore-n-More boards. All of these hoops and hurdles are supposed to lead towards the museum opening on Memorial Day of 2016. 2016!

Whatever happened to lighter, quicker, cheaper? The dumbest tag line in the embarrassingly pathetic history of Canalside is truly taking on its true meaning; dumber, slower, cheaper. So often you hear people rally towards “the waterfront we deserve” only to see the progress crawl along for half a decade. Continue reading

Get your lawsuits ready: Benderson awarded Donovan Building contract

It seemed more than inevitable that Benderson Development would win the request for the rights to the Donovan Building. For what it’s worth, no other RFP was submitted in the process. The more important piece of this pie will be what effect the development has on the greater Canalside development. Update: Buffalo News story on Canalside. I will comment on this at a later juncture.

Here are the basics (per Buffalo Rising):

  • Benderson will invest $30 million into the site, plus a $1 million deposit that they will start work by December (thanks Buffalo News)
  • Phillips Lytle will occupy the top four floors of the building
  • There is going to be nearly 12,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floor, plus a two-story parking garage
  • All of this will go into a re-skinned version of the building which marks the first private investment into Canalside

THE. FIRST. PRIVATE. INVESTMENT. IN. CANALSIDE. Let that simmer for a moment. The grass huffers who shelled out all that dough to the triangulation and power of 10 seminar are getting their wish. This form of investing falls into the lighter, quicker, cheaper mantra of the anti-big box retailer gang. Well, at least it is following their theory of allowing the development to occur organically. Continue reading

An interesting development on the water

Not long ago there was a terrible plan unveiled saying that the only thing you need to put on the Buffalo waterfront is a hot dog cart and a couple of lawns.

The rendering for the Canalside public market

Today there was a much more exciting plan that will probably never see much farther past today in terms of planning. Still, it is fun to dream. Today, the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation (ECHCHCHDCHD for short) pounded this baby on the people of Buffalo. My does that have the potential for greatness. Continue reading