Canalside, What’s Next?

31 Jul

So, what’s next? Fishing around for a new anchor tenant, LARF!  However, if this mystical anchor tenant hunt produces any fruit and that choice is not to the liking of Mark Goldman or other interests…more lawsuits, more clamoring for living wage legislation, more talking, debating, litigating, and public hearings, scoping sessions and most importantly, more scale diagrams of the inner harbor made of foam.

Here’s how I see the next couple of months breaking down.

The Buffalo Common Council will probably not agree to the Mayor’s Community Development Agreement to transfer land in the Bass Pro Demilitarized Zone to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation because the Council doesn’t know what will be going onto the site.  The council will want input into what goes onsite, how it is placed there, living wage, how it is designed, etc.

Benderson will most likely find that their imaginary list of 10 destination retailers will not be interested in setting up shop in what amounts to an alligator pit of obstructionist nonsense.  A new retailer with a new store footprint will be subjected to a modification process of the formal SEQRA, which will add months to the development timeframe.  That time will allow demagogues to come out of the woodwork and refresh their arguments against “big box” retail.  It will require additional public hearings, going hat in hand to ask permission from the inept and obstinate Common Council for support.  Retailers do not like to put their brand at risk in a public process like this and unless the retailer chosen is Trader Ikea Foods and Barrel, whatever is chosen will be fought tooth and nail.

Aside from all of that, we are in the worst economic climate in nearly a century.  The national commercial real estate market is in shambles and retailers large and small are struggling to stay open, much less expanding with a flagship store in a depressed region where they will face significant public scrutiny and become a community lightning rod and subjected to litigation.  To take on those risks and damage to their brand, a retailer would have to be REALLY committed to the idea of being in Buffalo.

I suspect that Jordan Levy will soon cite his new responsibilities as a board member of Seneca Holdings as well as his other interests and step down from the ECHDC, to be replaced with a Higgins friendly choice.

We’ll see discussion ramp up about moving HSBC Bank from it’s 40 story tower into the Webster Block of Canalside.  Hey, relocating a huge business 300 yards and leaving our most prominent building empty is progress!

We’ll see grass planted in other areas of Canalside, an infusion of mobile meat sales, and some basic improvements made to the street grid, but FAILhole (former site of the Aud) will remain for quite some time.

Which is why I propose we implement the WNYMedia plan.  A couple of years ago, Marc Odien drew up his rendering of Buffalo’s Waterfront Future. It needs to be updated to include the Historic, Epic, Significant Taco Truck…but you get the idea.

19 Responses to “Canalside, What’s Next?”

  1. Peter A Reese July 31, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Step One: Dump the current failed buffoons off the ECHDC board.
    Step Two: New board candidates:
    Tim Tielman- regional community rep and historical consultant.
    Joe Mascia – Neighborhood community rep.
    Mike LoCurto – City of Buffalo Rep.
    John Regis – Prime example of local business leadership and ethical consultant.
    Andy Rudnick – rep for Bob Wilmers.
    Who else?

  2. Mike in WNY July 31, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    The project needs a giant park, replete with trees and picnic tables.  The name should be “Effigy Park” and contain likenesses of area politicians hanging from the trees.  Families could enjoy a nice waterside picnic while the parents pay homage to the failed politicians and give their children a lesson in history and economics to explain why government planning does not work.

    • Peter A Reese July 31, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      @WNY Mike: In your own weird, tea bagging way you are on to something. The only demonstrated demand for the space is for concerts, entertainment and community gatherings. How about a section where the libertarians can reminisce about the good old days of the Nineteenth Century with live demonstartions of slavery, intense poverty and mass misery for the common folk?

  3. Bill Kruger July 31, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    O.K. so Bass Pro is not coming to Buffalo, how about this, we turn the land that was to be Bass Pro into a Festival Grounds. Lord knows we have plenty of festivals in Buffalo. We move Thursday in the square, and Wing Fest there too. Plus when the Sabres are in the playofffs that would be an ideal place to gather. You build up a shopping district around it to draw people to it when there is not a festival going on. I mean really, we have some kind of festival going on every week it seems. So why not put then all in the same spot, it would be a constant draw all summer long and we even have a couple of winter festivals also. It’s just a thought.

    • Christopher Smith July 31, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

      Perfect idea, absolutely perfect.

    • Starbuck July 31, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

      I like Bill K’s idea too, except I don’t think a year-round shopping district would build up around it. There just wouldn’t be enough customer flow most of the time. Instead, maybe a few seasonal eateries or drinkeries, very relaxed rules for vendors, and some space for selling stuff open-market style during summer weekends or any fests. When there’s no fest or event going on, people could still hang out like at Erie Basin Marina. No need for anything fake-historic or trying too hard to impress – which would likely backfire anyway. Keep it simple.

      • Bill Kruger August 1, 2010 at 10:12 am #

        As far as drawing a crowd during the winter, put up a public skating rink or two in the space, decorate it for the various holidays and have give the public a reason to venture down to the area. They need to have something going on there all the time whether it be a festival or not.
        This is just one idea and who knows if it is the right one. I’m sure there will be a hundred Ideas floating around as what to do, my fear is that it will be politics as usual in good old Buffalo and in ten years we will be wondering what will be completed first, Canal Side or the Peace Bridge.

  4. Mark July 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    “Trader Ikea Foods and Barrel,” very good.

    I think the idea of looking for a big anchor retailer before there is any consensus on what Canalside is for, or who it is for, or how it should be designed, is ridiculous. Even if I thought that a big national retailer was a necessity — which I don’t — why would one of them sign on to a project not guided by any solid vision or goals? How could that chain know if it was worth their trouble?

    So, you wouldn’t even try to get living wage jobs from a big national chain? Or any tenant?

    • seamonkeyavenger July 31, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

      Yep. I totally agree, Mark! I keep saying it… Look at OTHER successful waterfront developments (and even non-waterfront walkway developments) in the Northeast. Most of them DO NOT have some giant national retail anchor! Most of them are built around a variety of local, smaller businesses, clubs and restaurants. What would happen, 20 years down the road (and, let’s not forget, it was looking as though it was going to take Bass Pro 10 years to even begin break ground, if they HAD reached a deal!)… when this giant behemoth Bass Pro “anchor store” (a chain whose sales are ALREADY falling) is no longer “trendy” and it goes out of business? Then we have an even BIGGER mess than the mess we’d begun with! We then have a giant, empty, rotting structure on the waterfront, dragging EVERYTHING else down with it, as a giant rusting tribute to the planning board’s myopic lack of vision and foresight. An ugly dead dragon that cost us millions of dollars to build — and that will then cost us millions more to tear down and cart away. You want to see that bleak future on a smaller scale? Take a drive up to Batavia, and stroll through the mall that sits mostly empty in the center of downtown! You guys are so smugly derisive of people like Mark Goldman. Goldman, however, had a vision. He built the Calumet and people came… and then Goldman expanded and other businesses came… and Chippewa street was re-born (do any of you remember what that area was like before Goldman started implementing his vision downtown, when the street’s big “anchor” was the notorious House O’ Quinn?). I’m not that old, but I certainly remember. Is Chippewa perfect now? No. But it’s a world better than what was there before. We’d be much better off if we let people, like Goldman, help shape the vision and direction of waterfront development! And it wouldn’t take ten years, just to break ground! Do you snarky, smug, condescending WNYmedia men all live in the ‘burbs or something? Generally, I love you guys, but you’re wrong on this one (and you’re being unnecessarily nasty about it, too!).

  5. Mike In WNY July 31, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Identify the areas with commercial potential. Install all necessary infrastructure. Sell lots for development. Skip all the crazy shit, like the living wage proposal. Right now, there’s no wages being earned. Ban Buffalo Place from maintaining a monopoly on food & beverages during concerts.

    I thought it was completely ridiculous, and wrong, that people paying $25 for a ticket, to see the BPO perform in a “public place”, could not bring in a cooler with food & beverages.

    • Peter A Reese August 1, 2010 at 7:32 am #

      @WNY Mike: OMG, I think I agree with you! I most be losing my mind.

    • Gabe August 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

      Hot damn Mike, I actually agree with you on this one. I’m a firm believer in BYOB being a basic human right.

  6. Mark Poloncarz July 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Now that everything is up in the air, I would like to see an inter-modal transportation center built on the portion that was the front of the old Aud site (the Amtrak line runs right in front of it) or at least a new train station that lets people off next to the Metro Rail line and Main Street.

    As you said, and I posted on pundit’s site, now is the worst time to be seeking a destination retailer for a project like this. Retailers are hanging on by their fingertips in this bad economy, and no one will be taking a chance on this anytime soon.

    By the way, I like the Disney-like font of Marc’s rendering. It’s a theme park all to its own just by having the font!

    • Derek J. Punaro August 2, 2010 at 9:23 am #

      Mark, there’s not enough space there for a true intermodal transportation center. It would take up far too much space in that area and add a lot of truck traffic in an area that should be pedestrian-focused. Thinking longer term, the Central Terminal is in a much better location for a real intermodal center (car/truck/bus/light rail/high speed rail) when linked to the existing light rail line, which then could be extended down to the waterfront with a real station.

      • Gabe August 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

        Derek, I think what he meant was simply a nicer downtown Amtrak platform; something that looks fresh and contemporary with modern signage and basic facilities. The Exchange st. bunker-on-weed-infested-tracks we’re currently stuck with is beyond a joke. If the platform were to be moved up to a spot under Main St. it could make a much nicer connection to Metro Rail and perhaps a few express bus lines to the burbs. I don’t think this would require a whole lot of space.

        Besides that, I’m all about refurbishing the Central Terminal and THE prime regional rail station and transportation center.

  7. mike August 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    make it a park and remediate your way up the bflo river as far as the money will go.

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