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

Despite obstructionist claims, HARBORcenter will be an asset

You simply cannot have nice things if you live in Buffalo. I’ve only been around for 27 years and my interest in downtown development is far shorter than that. But I’ve seen enough to know that we simply cannot have nice things.

After winning a RFP process that only had two submissions, the Buffalo Sabres are preparing to break ground on a massive new development that will bring a brand-new hotel, twin rink and parking facility to the foot of the city’s new waterfront district alongside the preexisting arena district.

Multiple entrances and attractions certainly add up to a barrier, no?

Apparently this just isn’t historic enough for some people. Maybe Clinton DeWitt tossed a handkerchief out on this site when he wedded the waters or maybe a member of the Cotter family placed their outhouse on the northeast corner of the Webster Block back in 1847. Who knows? All that matters is protecting the historic integrity of the city and obstructing any project that looks, smells or sounds progressive.Tim Tielman’s complaints about the HARBORcenter project aren’t just obnoxious – as is common practice for him – they’re downright maniacal. To say that this dynamic project designed to draw people to the center of Buffalo’s newest entertainment district on a year-round basis is going to cut the city off from the waterfront is asinine. The gall of constructing a multi-level parking structure that can house a vast majority of Thursday at the Harbor fans along with those patronizing the ground floor retail of this building is beyond ignorant. How could the Sabres and city perpetuate such nonsense?

Just imagine what this lot could be if Tielman and his placemaking, crowdsourced gang of nincompoops got their hands on it. We could celebrate with temporary tents, functional lawns and deck chairs as far as the eye could see.

HARBORcenter isn’t just a hockey complex. It is a multifaceted addition to a burgeoning portion of the city. If anything, Tielman is completely contradicting the nature and scope of this very project.

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

Buffalo Pipe Dream: Pucks and Conventions

Early in the summer – when the threat of a lockout was evident but not looming – I took the time to throw out a few big picture ideas for Buffalo. These ideas ranged from re-working the Cobblestone District to finding a place for a state-of-the-art aquarium on the Outer Harbor.

Swap out those graphics for ones promoting an OHL contest and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Now that the HARBORcenter project is well underway, the Junior Sabres and Canisius DI teams will have a new home with seating for 2,000 fans. I like to think that my original pipe dream story had something to do with this, but I’m not that naïve.

One piece of common knowledge is the Buffalo’s Convention Center is undersized, dated and incapable of attracting larger events that hit cities like Pittsburgh. The recent waterfront Bills stadium proposal had a new convention center worked into the plans and such a project would be interesting to see. However, I don’t think that a new convention center needs to accompany a Bills stadium project.

Certainly there are plenty of power brokers and decision makers in WNY who are well aware of the glaring need to upgrade the current Convention Center. An updated and modern convention center would help raise the overall profile and perception of the region. Finding a location and project to build a new Convention Center should be high on the priority list of many throughout Buffalo. 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