Pipe Dream: Taking the opportunity to upgrade First Niagara Center’s exterior

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.

Make this a statement, not an afterthought.

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.

I’ve mentioned before that it would be beneficial to re-skin the atrium as a way to improve the visual connection between HARBORCENTER and the arena. The drop off in height and the drastic difference in architecture makes the adjoining buildings look odd, especially from Main Street. So the idea of a visual upgrade makes sense to me.

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

Canalside is Finally Nearing its Potential

If you get the chance, take a drive down to Canalside this weekend. Every square inch of concrete has been poured on the historically aligned canals and yet another major milestone has been reached by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. Now it’s time to wait.IMG_3563

Aside from the literal waiting that will accompany the concrete’s 28-day curing process (per The Buffalo News) it also appears that we will be waiting for the next significant move from the ECHDC. Tom Dee is always careful with his words but he never hesitates to reveal significant items when the opportunity presents itself. Yesterday’s development was no different as Dee said that Canalside is well past it’s tipping point.

I have to disagree with his sentiment. This is the tipping point. Continue reading

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

Finding a solution to First Niagara Center’s blocked signage

There have been a few rumors and reports that the Sabres are working to mend things with First Niagara as the construction of HARBORCENTER is leading to the First Niagara Center’s front door to be obscured quite a bit.

The new facility has risen high enough to block a fair portion of the building’s name when looking down Washington Street along with from other vantage points throughout the city. I can’t imagine it’s too big of an issue as the building’s name isn’t going to change and all the in-arena signage will certainly remain, but a fix is in order for the arena’s signage. Quite frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t already taken care of it.

The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.
The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.

I understand why First Niagara is upset. They paid a lot of money for the naming rights and now their sign is all but blocked when you look at the arena. What’s silly is that everyone already knows the name of the building and given the size of the arena, we know it’s not going to be dwarfed by many other developments in that area. However, it is still something that needs to be resolved.

With the new construction, using one sign on the front of the upper façade is no longer an option. It’s obscured from most angles and when you have a corporation shelling out as much as First Niagara has, a remedy will be in order. The easiest, and perhaps most logical, solution is to simply adorn either side of the arena with a First Niagara Center sign so that it’s fully visible no matter where you’re looking from.

As the picture above shows, putting up FNC signage on the east and western portions of the oval would provide cars a full view of the arena’s name whether they’re driving on the north or southbound 190 along with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Personally, I think it could be cool to place the signs on the edge of the façade rather than directly on the blue ring (as it is today). But that’s a minor detail. One way or the other, placing signage on those two areas should appease the decision makers at First Niagara nicely. Continue reading

The 2ITB Plan for a Bills stadium

The Bills sale is going to close before we know it and the focus will shift from who will be purchasing the team to what that new owner plans to do for a new stadium.

More than a few opinions are floating around currently and this week’s Artvoice cover story goes into great detail about a very cool plan for a new stadium in the heart of downtown. It is a phenomenal article written by a pair of stadium experts with the details worked out and planned by a true expert.

I really love the idea of depressing the 190 and eliminating a great deal of the barriers that sever the central business district from the waterfront. My concern is that the costs associated with such a project would ultimately doom this plan, despite its resounding brilliance. There won’t be a better alternative in terms of quality, preparation and vision compared to what Andrew Kulyk, Peter Farrell and the rest of the Artvoice crew came up with.Bills

That being said, I decided to break down and share my own personal pipe dream for a downtown stadium. In a previous post on this site, I alluded to my interest in utilizing the Perry Projects as the site for a new stadium. I love the proximity to Canalside and First Niagara Center along with the opportunity to reinvigorate a district that has been whittled down to a single block of buildings.

This plan is contingent on one major factor: the development of an adequate replacement to the current Perry Projects. If there isn’t a feasible option for relocating the residents of both the towers and two-story apartments, there is no reason to think about a stadium on this site. Ideally the BMHA (whose office near the Perry projects would need to move as well) would be able to take advantage of the countless vacant lots throughout the city to develop a replacement project. Getting funding for this project from the future owner would certainly go a long way in financing the construction of the new units while aiding in gaining approval for such an undertaking.

Assuming that a new home for the Perry Projects is found, the rest of my proposal follows in a fairly simple path. Upon replacing the Perry Projects, I’d see both the currently occupied buildings along with the vacant ones further south demolished to make way for new development. Everything between Chicago and Hamburg St. could be removed and that land would serve as the location of the new stadium. There would be space for new offices for the Bills as well if that was deemed a necessary addition. You’ll notice that I’m leaving out the field house because I feel that the current one serves the team too well to simply be cast aside. Continue reading

Connecting the dots between Hofbrauhaus and Canalside

It’s been a long time since this much news has come out about Canalside in such a short period of time. Aside from one small announcement that ECHDC will be waiting to develop the north portion of the Aud Block it’s been all great news for the epicenter of Buffalo’s waterfront development.

The building on the right will be bringing a beer garden to Canalside within the next year and it might just be the home of the previously announced Hofbrauhaus.

Today’s news included a report that Pizza Plant will be occupying the ground floor retail space in One Canalside and adding another food and entertainment option to the area around Canalside and the arena. The best part of that news is that there’s potential to see Pizza Plant open and operating right around the same time that HARBORCENTER and (716) open their doors.

Another report indicated that Pizza Plant and (716) will have company along Washington Street as Benderson has begun to work on developing a yet to be unnamed beer garden for the South Block. The Buffalo News report says the beer garden is at least a year away, which would probably slate it for a late-2015 opening. Continue reading

NFTA can keep pace with Canalside development with a minor alteration

Progress at Canalside is expected to be in high gear this summer as HARBORcenter continues to rise at a breakneck pace and construction on the faux canals should recommence now that Pike has taken over. One Canalside is almost fully open for business and the entertainment district is truly taking shape.

While the grassy, empty parcels wait for private investors to dive in, another opportunity continues to be missed as the Metro Rail trains cruise through each day.

Use this as a guide, not a template for the idea I’m floating.

The hideous red arch that spanned the rail line was taken down last year and additional work on the former Aud Station has taken place lately as the NFTA took the necessary steps to bring the rail line and stations up to par around the burgeoning district. However, there’s so much more they could be doing.

As the project to return cars to Main Street continues to inch towards the waterfront, the NFTA is seeing major changes made to the antiquated décor that surrounds each of their stations in the free zone. However, slapping a fresh coat of paint on the current Erie Canal Harbor Station is simply lipstick on a pig. Continue reading

Pipe Dream: Altering the FNC pavilion

As HARBORcenter continues to grow, the encroachment upon the front door of First Niagara Center is becoming more and more apparent. One of the most significantly altered spaces of the 18-year old arena will be the pavilion.

The grand entrance atrium was a hallmark of the design of the arena when it was originally introduced as Crossroads Arena. Having a main front door and entryway to an arena was a design feature that wasn’t regularly utilized in pro sports. It made the new home of the Sabres unique from many of its NHL counterparts. Now, with the skybridge connecting HARBORcenter and First Niagara Center, the look and functionality of the atrium will be significantly altered.

Based on the renderings and seeing how the façade of the arena will be affected by HARBORcenter, the original design and look of the atrium will be almost entirely compromised. While it would certainly be costly, there is now an opportunity change the outward appearance of the arena’s front door while also improving the design aesthetic of the arena so it fits better with its new neighbor.

The way that HARBORcenter and First Niagara Center come together has a somewhat awkward look when you look at the height and design of the pavilion and how the skybridge works into it. Additionally, the height of HARBORcenter’s rinks serves to affect the look of the pavilion. Why not alter the façade of the pavilion in order to allow for the two buildings to join together in a less awkward manner? By extending a redesign onto the other side of the pavilion to extend down to the Alumni Plaza, the front of the arena would not only get a visual upgrade but would also create a uniform look with HARBORcenter.

A simple glass façade would not only be the easiest but would also provide a nice visual upgrade. However, the lower levels of HARBORcenter, particularly the skybridge is brick which would likely clash with an all-glass look for the arena. Continue reading

Using HARBORcenter’s profile to attract college hockey’s best

Last week, the Sabres and Canisius confirmed what many hockey fans in Buffalo had long assumed; the Golden Griffins will call HARBORcenter home starting in the 2014-15 season.

With the Griffs set to become the primary tenant at Terry Pegula’s newest contribution to downtown Buffalo, the ripple effects on hockey at the local and national level should be seen sooner rather than later.

The 1,800 seat facility will most definitely help the Sabres draw attention for such events like the All-Star Game, World Junior Championships and perhaps even the Frozen Four. The lodging, ice availability and attraction of the $172 million facility should bolster the resume for the Sabres and First Niagara Center. Not to mention the positive returns the Golden Griffins will enjoy in terms of exposure and on the recruiting trail.

However, there is one road that I’m still waiting for the Griffs, Sabres and most importantly, Terry Pegula to explore. The creation of a yearly tournament, jointly hosted by the Sabres and Canisius as a way to showcase the program, First Niagara Center as well as HARBORcenter. In some ways it would be a recreation of the Punch Imlach Invitational that was ran in the early 2000s, but I’d like to see things improved in the future. Continue reading

HARBORcenter continues to be attacked

Somedays Tim Tielman must feel pretty good about himself. You can’t blame him. Just imagine how cool it would be to have the ability to call up your lackey columnist at the local paper so that he can trumpet your “achievements” for the community to read.

That’s basically what Donn Esmonde’s column in today’s paper does. While the entire scope focuses on some of Esmonde’s viewpoints on HARBORcenter, it is riddled with little than a firm pat on the back to everyone’s favorite “urban designer”, Tim Tielman. (If Tim Tielman can be categorized as an urban planner, you can officially refer to me as a novelist. Because, you know, I write stuff. )

Portions of the column actually make strong claims in support and against HARBORcenter. In fact, Esmonde seems to understand how the project will serve as a regional draw and will ultimately service Canalside as a whole. However, bemoaning the addition of parking with the simultaneous elimination of a surface lot and introduction of an anchor project is perplexing. Continue reading