And No One Wore Flannel

30 Mar

The ECHDC is taking this deal very seriously – holding meetings, wearing suits, and speaking in moderated tones about a project they’re very excited about.

I attended today’s press conference and ECHDC meeting, and my straight take on it is here. WNYMedia video:

If they can pull this off, it’ll be amazing. I love this project and I based on what I heard, everyone is doing all the right things with respect to its design and implementation. The real challenge will be to do this with the Skyway in place. That thing needs to go – not because it’s dangerous in the snow, but because it’s fugly and physically separates the city from its waterfront while also taking up precious, valuable real estate.

The $25 million to help prep the site and construct the building is a lot of money, and I’m sure many will balk at spending it. Point taken. But rather than the old deal whereby Bass Pro would pay a penny’s worth of rent per year for the Aud, the store will pay $300,000 per year for the right to be located in “Canal Side.” In addition, project developer Benderson will complete a mixed-use project on no fewer than four city blocks. Not one of those blocks has paid a dollar in property taxes to the city in 50 years. That’s about to change.

The idea is not only to give us locals somewhere nice to go along the waterfront, but to give Niagara Falls visitors somewhere else to go whilst on this side of the border. Hell, even Canadians will come there to pay our relatively modest 8.75% sales tax as compared with their GST/PST nut.

The design is no abomination, but pays homage to what the city looked like 150 years ago. I saw that some are decrying the fact that green space is being lost to this Bass Pro store, but people don’t generally come downtown for green space. Especially not in the wintertime. Public access to the waterfront is guaranteed with walkways and plazas. The overall project will also include a large marketplace for local merchants, an aquarium, and a museum.

This is a glorified outdoor mall, yes. But it’s the kind of thing that can really help revive a downtown that suffered rigor mortis decades ago. You want Buffalo to be a cool city with cool things to do? You build cool places to go. I think this project is wicked cool.

Some questions I asked:

Byron, how important was the 30-day deadline to get this done, and how about auctioning off the contents of the Aud?

Eric (Recoon from Benderson Development), what the heck is a “special tenancy?”

A recording of the entire press conference is here.

3 Responses to “And No One Wore Flannel”

  1. Hawk (Not Hank) at 7:52 am #

    I still don’t understand why people would criticize having retail and commercial businesses at the location. For God’s sake, its called the “Commercial Slip” because that’s what was there during the canal’s heyday – business (and some not so nice businesses either).

    People need to get real. This is our last great shot at making a downtown inner waterfront we can be proud of and that will bring tourists downtown. If locals want green space on the waterfront you already have Erie Basin Marina and Lasalle Park to enjoy (which nobody seems to talk about as existing but does and is hardly used except for softball and kids football games).

    The goal is to not put another unused small park on the waterfront, but to rebuild our waterfront so that a critical mass of people will visit no matter what season. This plan does create additional recreation space by taking out the sewer drain that stinks up the area in summer and replacing it with new boat slips near the arena. Hopefully it will add some jobs and dollars to the economy, and I think it will. We should be supporting it, and those that oppose it should seriously think twice before filing a lawsuit for the supposed “betterment” of the community.

  2. Terry at 9:49 am #

    While I support preservation-ism in theory, we have to be careful that this project does not get delayed by preservationist bullshit..there is nothing down there to “preserve” as it was all demolished decades ago (truth be told, the area was probably somewhat unsavory back in the day and doesn’t deserve to be preserved…but that’s another story). Anything that is erected in that area should (and I emphasize should) be better than the wasteland that exists now……Let’s get the show on the road and build….My only objection to Bass Pro is that I don’t fish, I have no desire to fish, and I don’t know alot of people who do actively fish. Ergo, the store doesn’t do a thing for me, I will never go there and I hope that I am not reflective of the real community here (of course, if I am, I shall shoot myself immediately). I can’t stand it when these places open up and close a year later.

  3. eliz at 1:36 pm #

    BP, greenspace in WNY can be enjoyed seven months out of the year. This past year, my golfing friends were out there almost through January. Bulbs are coming up now and most area gardens are viable through October.

    I don’t think that because greenspace is not in itself an attraction (arguable, as many like to simply walk along the water and would go downtown to do it) is a sufficient reason to leave it out of this plan. A ribbon of greenspace would greatly enhance this in my view. You can have both.

    Having said that, I would agree that this plan is a positive thing.

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