Bass Pro, Connecting The Dots

30 Jul

Updating a post from last week…

A fog of failure has been created around Bass Pro and Canalside. No one is to blame, because everyone is to blame.

Higgins is to blame for sending his 14 day ultimatum to Bass Pro, the Common Council is to blame for foisting the Community Benefits Agreement into the process at the last minute, the Mayor is to blame for not sending his compromise Community Development Agreement to the Common Council in time for them to legitimately debate it, Scott Fisher and Mark Goldman are to blame for their frivolous lawsuit, and Buffalo (writ large) is responsible…at least that’s how Jordan Levy tells the tale. He and ECHDC and Benderson are just faithful stewards of the process…I think you can hear my eyes rolling.

Over the last three days, a few stories have come out that seem to be disconnected, but really aren’t once you connect the dots.

Three times during the Buffalo/ECHDC CDA announcement, Larry Quinn made a point to mention that the community needs to stop focusing on Bass Pro and start calling the development “Canalside”.  Quinn said, “With or without Bass Pro, this is going to be a huge development”.  During that same press conference, Mayor Brown, Rep. Higgins and ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy echoed the same sentiment.

Bass Pro has had the official lease agreement with ECHDC in their hands for several weeks and has yet to act.  While all the funding is in place and the environmental reviews are completed, there is still a nagging issue around the proposed Community Benefits Agreement (with a living wage provision) being debated in the Common Council.  That nagging issue has had a deleterious effect on negotiations, according to Jordan Levy,

“We’re negotiating with Bass Pro. They have a lease (proposal).  We’re optimistic. We’re moving forward with that.. Bass Pro is clearly sincere, but candidly the activity that is taking place in this community is in fact having a negative effect on those negotiations.”

The Mayor offered a compromise with his proposed Community Development Agreement between ECHDC and the City of Buffalo.  Essentially lifting many of the  provisions of the proposed CBA (minus the living wage provision) and transferring $10MM of ECHDC funds to council districts throughout the city.  Or as Councilman Mike LoCurto calls it, “A Council Bribery Agreement”.  The council tabled discussion of the Mayor’s CDA, perhaps until the end of their seven-week recess.  As of right now, neither agreement (CBA/CDA) has the votes to pass.

Second story of note was the coordinated leak to numerous outlets that HSBC Bank is looking to relocate from 1 HSBC Center to a location either on the Webster Block in the ECHDC area or a campus like building in the Cobblestone district.

Third story of note is Rep. Brian Higgins’ letter to Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris.  In the letter, Higgins gave Bass Pro two weeks to make a final decision on the lease agreement with ECHDC.

There are a couple of possibilities why Higgins chose to release that letter.

1.)  Bass Pro has already told ECHDC that they are out and everyone is rushing to save face.  If Bass Pro is out, Higgins can claim he set a deadline and Bass Pro walked, making it look like he was tough and won a victory for the community.

2.) Bass Pro is in and Higgins can claim his no-nonsense deadline setting was the impetus for the final decision.  See how there is no downside for the letter?  Higgins is a pretty smart politician, ya know.  Cynical, but smart.

3.) Bass Pro is waiting for the city to make a decision on the living wage provision and will not sign a lease until it’s been defeated.  Higgins then forces the hand of the Common Council to make a decision on the CDA in a special session within the next two weeks.  All signs point to the Bass Pro CDA not having the votes necessary unless Kearns or Franczyk can be swayed to yes votes with additional lulus for their districts.

Most likely, Bass Pro will not be the anchor in Canalside, which is why there is suddenly talk about moving HSBC 300 yards down the street to serve as a development anchor.

I suspect that unless this living wage provision is scrapped within 14 days, we’re going to stream another press conference at which Larry Quinn and Jordan Levy will pretend that Bass Pro was never crucial to the development.

Oh, how we’ll laaaaaaugh!

8 Responses to “Bass Pro, Connecting The Dots”

  1. Michael July 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh, I think BP (see that connection) is already out and Quinn’s soundbyte earlier this week about community negativity was just his doing the spade work for the long awaited spin about why Bass Pro won’t come, when they’ve built a couple of stores in the intervening years while jerking Buffalo’s politicos around. Just as well. If I’m Gander Mountain, or Dick’s I’m thinking what the hell? Better off as the reasons to come are almost there. The stuff that works here have always been because of lots of little things not the because of one big entity.

  2. Jesse July 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    My money is on #1. I think you are giving way too much importance to the living wage stipulation. If Bass Pro is dragging its feet because community activists and their allies in the Common Council have been pushing for a living wage in the past couple of months, then what explains the other 10 years of being strung along?

    • Christopher Smith July 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

      The other 10 years? No actual funding, no comprehensive plan, no actual property, no environmental reviews and the fact that Tielman’s waterfront master plan needed to be modified for this to happen.

  3. Derek J. Punaro July 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    What a waste it would be for HSBC to build another building at Canalside and let HSBC tower rot. Will we give them incentives to do that, knowing that it’ll take years before there are enough occupants to fill the space they vacate in Buffalo’s skyscraper? Then we’ll need additional incentives to rehab HSBC tower to incentivize other companies to use the space. But, I guess as long as someone fills the space at Canalside they can call it a success.

  4. Mark July 22, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    i’ve been sick and internet-free for three days. this post just made my head explode.

    quinn said at the city hall hearing last week how he just talked to a company that was thinking about moving over 1,000 jobs to canal side…of course it was HSBC…because in buffalo moving a company two blocks south is EPIC DEVELOPMENT!

    i assume bass pro is out at this point…i just hope people realize it does not mean our inner harbor is doomed.


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