Bass Pro: Not Coming to #Buffalo, Ever (Updated)

30 Jul


If you missed the tweets from @wnymedia, @buffalogeek, and @buffalopundit, and have otherwise been under a rock for the afternoon, Bass Pro has pulled out of the Canal Side project once and for all.


A press conference had been called for 2pm where Jordan Levy was going to unveil a study concluding that Bass Pro would be just great for the Buffalo waterfront. That was abruptly canceled at around lunchtime due to “scheduling conflicts”. About an hour or so later, the media got a new advisory announcing a “major” 2:30pm announcement about Bass Pro. Sources told me almost immediately that this was bad news about Bass Pro.

The video speaks for itself, and our long regional nightmare of uncertain Bass Pro agreement status has finally come to an end.

ECHDC’s Jordan Levy and Tom Dee, plus Benderson Development’s Eric Reccoon were on-hand to address the situation. They reiterated that Bass Pro was never the sum total of the Canal Side project, and that they would now have to redouble their efforts to basically come up with a plan B. Levy and Reccoon stated that ten alternate anchor tenants had been identified, and that they would be setting out over the next several weeks in-person to pitch Canal Side to these retailers. They declined to identify the prospective tenants because part of the reason why Bass Pro pulled out of these negotiations is your fault, my fault, all of our fault. The “negative” and “toxic” public discussion about Bass Pro, paired with the fact that Bass Pro had become a “lightning rod” had contributed to the deal not happening.

Finally, it was noted by Bass Pro that they simply could not finalize a lease deal within the time constraints set forth by Congressman Brian Higgins due to “numerous critical issues” involving the fact that “several major issues fundamental to the successful completion of the project”. Media chatter that this deal is dead because of because of Higgins’ deadline is, therefore, factually inaccurate.

More later – tune in to hear Chris Smith with Brad Riter on WECK 1230-AM at 5pm.

UPDATE: Brian Higgins’ statement:

Congressman Higgins Responds to News on Waterfront Development

“Western New Yorkers have waited fifty years for waterfront development to happen and we aren’t waiting anymore. After nearly a decade of talk there comes a point when this community should expect our business partners to either sign on the dotted line or we as a community must again stand up for ourselves and demand we move forward.

“I will be asking Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to develop a revised plan with emphasis on public infrastructure that will help us to reach our full waterfront potential. Thanks to our hard work over the last several years we have over $100 million in NYPA funding immediately available to implement that plan.

“The potential for a great Buffalo waterfront is emerging; we know it and we see it with the increased crowds at the Inner and Outer Harbor today. The last nine years of limbo is unreasonable and unfortunate but today, with nothing holding us back, we continue the momentum we already see along the water’s edge.”

23 Responses to “Bass Pro: Not Coming to #Buffalo, Ever (Updated)”

  1. Michael July 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    I don’t know if it was bad news necessarily as it was expected. They created a toxic environment with the news about the handouts and incentives, then teased ceaselessly with no information or inkling of committment or interest, all the while building a crap load of stores in the time frame from the original ridiculous press conference 1000 years ago (Okay, 2001). Perhaps, the potential upside, is that we stop whoring ourselves out like a blind date in search of the magic project anchor. Make lots of things good and stuff will come. A little water access will go a long way.

  2. Max July 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    That’s a relief comparable to the experience of watching a loved one suffer prior to passing on. I think what’s passed on in this case is the notion Buffalo needs a ‘savior’ from the outside to bring it back from the dead, along with the financial inducements made to the suitor to make it happen. The ideas, resources and energy to realize Buffalo’s urban assets already exist, if we’d only take the time to realize that. My biggest regret is not the “loss” of Bass Pro but we didn’t have a similar relaization before the first shovel was turned to build that dreaded Senaca casino.

  3. jen July 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    I agree with Michael and Max, this is not bad news for all the reasons stated above.

  4. Mark July 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Agreed here also. Alan, I listened to some of your discussion on WECK. I think you guys dismissed the idea of local stores at Canalside too easily. I don’t think anyone thinks that (Super) Vidler’s or Pearl Street or Everything Elmwood is going to move down there and everything will be great. What can happen is that the district can be built around the unique character of the city, and a bunch of that incentive money can go to local entrepreneurs, who are entirely capable of creating worthwhile shops, bars, galleries, clubs, restaurants, and so on. If the place is well-designed and seems likely to bring people in maybe some national chains will be interested.

    Most of the attractive, walkable city districts I have visited do not have one big anchor tenant that drives the whole thing. What they do have is unique character and distinctive businesses operating. Starting off by looking for a big out-of-town chain to ride in and rescue the city didn’t work. That is part of the same underlying local mentality of the last thirty years where we’re looking for a new Bethlehem Steel to fix everything all at once. The goal should be to build a great place that keeps as much money in the region as possible.

  5. seamonkeyavenger July 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    I totally agree with the above posts. I’m thrilled that we can FINALLY put this Bass Pro boondoggle behind us. I never understood how or why Bass Pro would be an appropriate “anchor” for waterfront development (a large, ugly indoor sporting goods store, with declining sales and several stores within driving distance). And then to have to PAY them millions of dollars and acres of prime waterfront space, just for a bunch of minimum wage retail jobs? No thanks. We need to look at successful waterfront projects in cities of similar size… Take a look at the types of businesses that are bolstering and supporting *those* ventures; you sure as heck won’t find Bass Pro shops.

    • Brian Castner July 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

      Yes, a store selling boats for people to catch bass out of clearly makes no sense on the waterfront. Please do look at other successful development around the country – you find plenty of evil retail, and the occassional Bass Pro – like in Destin at the shops Alan and I went to (at different times):

      • seamonkeyavenger July 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

        Don’t be condescending, Mr. Castner! I’m not against RETAIL spacesb at the waterfront (where do you see that in my post?!) — but I (along with many others who live in this region) AM against paying big bucks to entice a giant, ugly indoor sporting goods store (with declining sales) at the waterfront! Get real! Just how many boats do you think a large store like that would sell on the fly? People aren’t going to go to the waterfront and buy an expensive boat (or even expensive fishing equipment) on a whim, simply because there happen to be pricey items available for purchase there. If you want a pricey boat or fishing equipment (NOT whim purchases for most) there are already plenty of places to buy these items in the area. On the other hand, people MIGHT be attracted by a variety of outdoor markets (think Quincy Market, but smaller)… cafes… small shops, etc. Or by many OTHER options. Bass Pro was always a pricey, behemoth boondoggle. Good Riddance!

    • Brian Castner July 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

      Ok, I was a bit snarky. But you said look at what is sucessful waterfront projects in other cities, and you will retail with poor paying jobs – Bass Pro is not the only store to pay minimum wage (Quincy Market included), and no more egregious than others. I don’t know how many people buy boats on what kind of whim, but the water seems a good place to do it. And if you don’t trust my opinion of Destin, read Alan’s:

      • seamonkeyavenger July 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

        I am NOT against retail, and I fully understand that retail jobs tend to pay poorly. I am, however, dead set against paying a big, ugly corporate monster BIG BUCKS and prime real estate only to produce a bunch of minimum wage jobs! If we are going to dole out bucks… why not to smaller LOCAL businesses — businesses that could offer a sense of local character and charm to the waterfront — businesses that WON’T require nine years of planning, just to break ground. I totally think that Mark, who posted above, hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head; most thriving, successful, waterfront “walks” do NOT have a giant national anchor store; they have a number of smaller shops, restaurants, breweries and such that incorporate some sort of local flavor… a sort of “charm” (for lack of a better word) that can’t be found at the mall. After all, if people want the Galleria, they can already GO to the Galleria! Again, I realize that I am talking about ocean front -vs- lake front property, but take a look at Boston (around Quincy Market and the Commons) — or, better yet, Portland Maine! Bustling and thriving waterfront areas, with NO large, national “anchor” stores. I don’t understand why local planners aren’t thinking more along these lines… Maybe then, down the road, some larger store will WANT to move in, without us having to pay them to do it… Maybe not, but we don’t really NEED that.

      • seamonkeyavenger July 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

        Or, for a fairly nearby example… take a drive down to Ithaca, NY. Look at their central, downtown “Commons.” And Ithaca doesn’t even have a waterfront! 🙂 Surely, we could pull off something on that order.

  6. Mike In WNY July 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Maybe Bass Pro will come to Amherst – on their own dime.

    • Peter A Reese July 31, 2010 at 9:16 am #

      Not a prayer. They would rather spend your money.

  7. seamonkeyavenger July 30, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    And while I have NO problem with retail, I sure hope that we don’t get a tacky, charmless development project, like your photos of Destin. Yuck! It looks like Salvatore’s Italian Garden puked all over their waterfront. Come on. Is that really the best we can hope for?

    • Jeremy July 31, 2010 at 8:41 am #

      I’m the biggest proponent of clean, beautiful design you’re going to find in this region, but goddamn, all this talk about ‘big, ugly retailer Bass Pro’ is nauseating. Have you seen all the burnt out, rotting stuff around here? The unkempt sidewalks, the trashed parking lots, the abandoned buildings? Okay, you don’t like how Bass Pro looks, we get it, but damned if it wouldn’t have represented a 2000% improvement over almost any business that has opened here in the past decade outside of the Galleria. For a city that contents itself with signage that’s one step above hand-drawn and new construction that has no character, modern or classic, anything – even a store with antlers on the outside – would represent an improvement. At least someone took time to design those stores.

      People with your sad mentality are going to turn this into a one-mall region – in Cheektowaga, no less – with a city that has zero chance of drumming up additional organic business or resources. God forbid a retailer capable of stocking boats and fishing gear shows up near the waterfront to set up a nice shop rather than some third rate tackle and bait shack. If their exterior decor bugs you, drive them out with pitchforks and torches instead of working with them to match the proposed look of the development. That’ll show them.*

      * = that you’re not worth the time, money, or effort.

  8. Matt July 31, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    I just have one question about this hole Canal Side development. What exactly is Brian HIggins role in everything? I am not pro nor anti Higgins, but I can’t understand how a Congressman has put himself in the center of a major development project. I follow politics fairly closely, but I can’t recall a similar situation anywhere. As a Congressman, Higgins has broad legislative abilities when it comes to the federal government (no more than any other Congressman has).

    However, Congressmen are not endowed with any executive power nor any local authority. The scope of their ‘power’ has to do with laws and regulations being considered in Congress, in DC.

    Does anyone know what Higgins’ authority is when it comes to Canalside development? I’m not implying that he loused up the deal, nor anything else. I’m just wondering why a congressman seems to be quarterbacking a local development project.

    • Mike in WNY July 31, 2010 at 10:33 am #

      Brian Higgins is an opportunist.  He was one of the main forces that brokered the deal to relicense the Power Authority for another 50 years.  He was, as talk on the street has it, pressured by Slaughter and Pataki to support the relicensing, ostensibly to keep the Power Authority Cash Cow in business for the State.  Historically, the Power Authority has given gifts of hundreds of millions of dollars to the State.  The money the Power Authority has agreed to give us to finance the waterfront development amounts to a mere pittance in comparison to the egregious electric rates we are subjected to for the present and the next 50 years.

      Brian Higgins is living proof that we should run in the other direction when he says, as Ronald Reagan quipped, “I am here from the government and I’m here to help you”.  The only person Brian Higgins is helping is himself by duping the electorate into thinking he is doing good.

  9. Thesportsroadtrip July 31, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    For all the chatter about smaller shops and districts wioth “charm”, let’s make one thing clear… the Webster block will remain an asphalt parking lot for arena patrons, the Donovan and empty asbestos free shell, and the Aud block a desolate crater. Forever.

    Yes they will finish the cobblestone street grid, and put p pretty street lights and hanging baskets, and there will be hot dog vendors and port-a-pottys set up for special events, but now there is no plan, no future, no action. What retailer, large or small in their right mind would spend a dollar doing their due diligence, planning, architectural drawings etc, when they can already see what they are up against – the welfare detritus of Marine Drive lining up to oppose, their city council lining up to oppose, the do gooders like Tielman and Giacalone et al lining up to oppose, the unions forcing a CBA demanding some ridiculous salary structure.

    This is the most sickening and depressing city EVER. Why I decided to invest and call this my home I surely must have rocks in my brain.

    • Peter A Reese July 31, 2010 at 9:27 am #

      You are 1000% wrong. There is a plan. It was agreed to in 2004 to settle the Commercial Slip lawsuit. It calls for small small scale, amenable and historically compliant development. The 2004 plan is completely acceptable to Marine Drive, Tielman, Giacalone and every other rational person who has given it any thought. What we need going forward is to have the buffoons of the Harbor Development Corporation start implementing the 2004 plan or at least get out of the way.

      My congratulations and thanks to everyone who has fought for years to get something sensible done on the waterfront. And I hope Johnnie Morris doesn’t get hit in the ass by the door as he leaves town.


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