The City Grill Shootings and What Now for Downtown #Buffalo

16 Aug

According to the Buffalo Police Department’s website, there have been 32 homicides in the City of Buffalo so far this year, not including the tragedy that happened this past weekend outside of City Grill on Main Street in the faintly beating heart of downtown Buffalo. Four people’s lives were taken after a couple of parties got shut down at City Grill, and someone outside fired a 9MM into the crowd. 8 people were shot.

The next morning, Buffalo cheerleaders were wringing their hands over how such a tragedy might play in Amherst, and whether it would harm efforts to revive Buffalo’s downtown – namely, Canal Side. Of course, this was a senseless tragedy that was anything but random. It’s interesting to watch the city police come face-to-face with the “Stop Snitching” ethos that’s so prevalent in the African-American community. Responsible voices cry out, “if you know something, say something!” but in the meantime, the police are busy arresting the wrong guy.

I’m not a cop, nor a sociologist, so I’m not going to criticize the police, or that they have no residency requirement. I’m not going to make snarky comments about Derenda’s first real test as commissioner and how he’s doing. I’m not going to rail against the Brown administration and how it routinely plays down crime statistics. I’m not going to write a tome about how the Black community can make its neighborhoods safer, or better cooperate with police.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the suburb/city split and Canal Side and how this shooting may or may not affect them.

Any suburbanite whose confirmation bias about the perceived safety of downtown Buffalo is strengthened by these shootings needs to take a step back and look at what happened. This was a targeted, reactionary shooting – not something random. Downtown Buffalo is hardly a shooting gallery on a regular basis. If anything, it’s a ghost town – a wasteland peppered with a small handful of bars.

There’s been something of an interesting intersect as to how these shootings are being linked in to the public discord over Canal Side. The Fisher brothers, Tielman, and others want Canal Side to be a parkland or a museum or something else that cannot be called a “mall”, because malls are the absolute worst thing that man ever created, or God ever permitted to exist. The suburbanites who would be expected to patronize such a “mall” are now chattering about how Buffalo is very dangerous, so they’ll spend their money in Cheektowaga instead.

It is a perfect storm of status-quo for Buffalo. One asshole with a 9MM did more to ensure that downtown remain lame than any obstructionist lawsuit or prejudiced suburbanite could ever do.

I made the point on Facebook and Twitter that “The City Grill murders aren’t going to hurt any downtown #Buffalo renaissance. It’s the lack of non-drunken things to fucking do.” One person commented with this:

Babeville (TWO floors of performance venues, independent of each other). Hallwalls. WNY Book Arts Center. (Also the new home of Just Buffalo.) Squeaky Wheel. Starlight Studio. The newly revived library. Washington Market. The Canal museum-y site. The Mansion. The Avant. ChocoLogo. The OTHER chocolate-based place whose name I always confuse with CL, neither of which is the Chocolate Bar. New Era. All the co-op housing I scoffed at when it first opened but is completely filled.

That’s just the last few years and thus does not include CEPA and the rest of the Market Arcade building, Irish Classical, the ongoing restorations to Shea’s, Spot Coffee (as social venue), Old Editions, Mohawk Place (you don’t actually have to drink when you’re there, you know)…

I replied with:

An impressive list, but of those, I don’t think a single one is open past 5pm on any regular basis, and a few of them may stretch the definition of “downtown”.

It went on from there, with Chris Smith arguing that there’s nothing impressive about that list, and

It’s a list of things that are mostly open during the day…several of which are not open to the general public all of the time. It’s a depressingly small list of incremental improvements that have happened over ten years and which serve a very specific demographic group.

Once the argument turned with the person who made the Babeville, et al. suggestions writing,

are any of you haters doing a fucking thing to make downtown better yourselves? If not, allow me to suggest a number of cities where you might be more welcome.

I was out. It’s done. I wrote one sentence decrying the fact that there is nothing to do in downtown Buffalo on a nightly basis that doesn’t involve getting hammered and then driving home, and I get the “what are YOU doing? You should just move!” argument.

Well, what I’m doing is spending my money in other parts of the city, and in the suburbs, and other places where there are things to do. The beauty of something like Canal Side is that it could be the spark that sets off a fire of entrepreneurial development downtown. If it had actual things to do that would make regular people come downtown, then other businesses could fill it in, as well as the immediate surrounding areas to support the foot traffic that hadn’t been present on Main Street downtown in generations. Maybe Bass Pro wasn’t going to be the silver bullet everyone thought it’d be, but do you have any better suggestions? A museum or park isn’t going to bring a mass of people downtown on a regular basis. An IKEA? Forget the fact that IKEA is never going to come here, or the fact that there’s an IKEA about an hour up the QEW. If you think the Tielman clique had a conniption over Bass Pro, just wait to see what they’d have to say about IKEA – which is the biggest of big boxes. Wegmans? I can’t begin to understand why that’s a good idea. Put a Wegmans downtown, sure. Put it near some other new lofts or apartments, great. But on the waterfront? What’s next? A massive Dollar General?

Given that no one will ever agree on what should go into Canal Side, and given the fact that the obstructionists will continue to obstruct forever, whatever happens there should be organic growth, and there needs to be an incentive to do so. I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again – if you want the foot of Main Street to be a mecca for people again, then a portion of downtown needs to be converted into a sales-tax free zone. It is a reverse Empire Zone – instead of the businesses getting the incentive, the consumer gets it directly. People would complain about how unfair it would be to other businesses. Perhaps. But the fact that Pennsylvania’s gas and clothes are less expensive is unfair to Chautauqua County gas and clothing retailers.

Downtown is dead because downtown is dead. If you want downtown to live again, improve the business climate and make it especially attractive.

38 Responses to “The City Grill Shootings and What Now for Downtown #Buffalo”

  1. Michael August 16, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    Nice idea that, but our Leadership will do nothing that risks reelection would never go for it. The whole notion that Canalside cries out for large entity isn’t something I’m completely sure of. I mean we bent over backwards to keep Kmart on Broadway and got a big empty abandoned building for the trouble. One big thing ain’t going to do it, If all interested parties take a look at the waterfronts of Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago and others I’m sure, there isn’t a dominant retailer, just lots of little things. Give folks more water access and they would come.

  2. Becky August 16, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    There are lots of people on the waterfront throughout the day and evening on a daily basis whose idea of something to do doesn’t involve adding much to the sales tax coffers, generating other revenue, or adding construction/other jobs. Namely they are sitting enjoying the view, biking, walking, jogging, going to the Naval Park, walking some more, grabbing a bite to eat, sailing, relaxing, and more.  It’s not a big “Something to Do” but people do come in from the suburbs to enjoy, along with the people that actually live here, who, by the way, count too. The simple things in life have been underrated.

    • Brian Castner August 16, 2010 at 8:32 am #

      No one is more of an view enjoyer, biker, walker, jogger, more walker, and relaxer than me. But you know what, I can do that La Salle Park RIGHT NOW. And I think the view is better anyway. A park is the solutiuon to every empty space in Buffalo, it seems. We already have great parks. Can we have something else now too? You know what I really want – a great seafood restaurant on the water, that I can take out of town family to. No, Shanghai/Templeton’s doesn’t count. Yes, Harry’s in good, but I’d rather be downtown. Bass Pro would have created the momentum to make that maybe possible. Now, not so much.

  3. Jeremy August 16, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    It took years to fully appreciate this, but “Buffalo” is for all intents and purposes a lost cause. Add up all the things you didn’t want to criticize – police who arrest the wrong people, citizens who won’t cooperate with police, a government that doesn’t address crimes realistically or with properly vetted personnel – along with all the things you did criticize: a city with little going on, dreamers and obstructionists guiding its destiny, and genuine hostility towards outside ideas and businesses.

    Know what that adds up to? Endless columns of “fail.” Not because you’re being snarky, but because anyone with one working eye and half a working brain can see it plainly.

    Buffalo as a city (not as a catchall term for the region) has become a charitable cause. Witness the fights over who’s doing more to try and save it, and the descriptions of selflessness that those discussions entail – these are the hallmarks of charity, not business. And it’s not a well-run charity, either. Some of the people in charge are misusing funds, hiring under-qualified people, and so on. Consequently, the overall success of the venture is very questionable. Understanding the city from this perspective will make it a lot easier to deal with the next wave of waste, mistakes, and disappointments, and perhaps, to focus people here on investing their -business- dollars into local areas with growth potential and an appreciation for new and better things.

  4. Peter A Reese August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Alan: If you are so concerned with Buffalo’s downtown, why don’t you move your white suburban ass into the City where you can at least attempt to change something?

    Also, if you bothered to pay attention, you would see that Tielman’s plan for Canalside is historically compliant small scale commercial/retail/residential development on a parcel by parcel basis. It would lead to what we city slickers call a “neighborhood”. I guess you don’t have those in Clarence.

    BTW, toadying for a rip off of public funds is no virtue, and getting in the way of something which will be a train wreck is no vice. Viva Obstructionists!

    • Jeremy August 16, 2010 at 9:57 am #

      Precisely. Suburbanites, stay out of Buffalo. Let the “true Buffalonians” – people like Peter – develop the city as they will, without input from people who don’t live there, don’t vote there, and don’t pay taxes* there. The City clearly has the money, talent, and vision necessary to fix its own problems, thank you very much. (* = Sales tax doesn’t count.)

      • Peter A Reese August 16, 2010 at 10:33 am #

        Alan: Now you’ve got the picture. No burbies are allowed in the City because we want to keep the enjoyment of all the societal problems of the poor and minorities to ourselves. And you can continue to assist us in warehousing all of our economically disadvantaged citizens who you are trying to escape. Don’t you dare advocate a massive low income housing effort in the lily white burbs. That could get you killed by your fellow limousine liberal know it alls. On the other hand, please do get us more prisons After all, they create good paying jobs.

  5. Liz August 16, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Alan, just a quick reaction to this yin and yang of criticism/reaction about Buffalo that has been going on forever, but has been magnified by the quick feedback loop of blogs.  As someone who has tried, in my way, to make Buffalo a better place to live and gotten smacked down for it — it’s perplexing that there isn’t enough room for a multitude of solutions regarding development of this city.  In line with your illustration of various players in Buffalo — there’s a large against small undercurrent to this dialogue.  Those people that are trying to do things at a grass roots level are like weeds in the sidewalk.  Trying to take hold and make something *despite* the ingrained power player structure.  Personally, I got tired of waiting for something to happen because to push those large agendas, one needs to have some kind of motivation — money being the primary one.  I speak for myself when I say what I’d like for the waterfront is to have more access, but if I have to walk by some stores to get there, that’s OK.  I just want my representatives in the local government to have my interests at heart in working with these companies and to not “give away the store” for profit-based entities.  I’ve been here long enough that, unless my name has an “LLC” at the end of it, I’m probably not a real constituent of our elected officials.But my real motivation for writing was a reaction to your experience of the angry commenter who told you to get lost because of your criticism.  I guess I have sympathy for the anti-complainers — trying so hard to swim upstream and make this city better just to be told “meh, not really progress.”  This may be true but I can’t wait around for someone else to not do something to make my life in the city better.As for the “Buffalo is a failed city” argument above — to quote Monty Python — “…I’m not dead yet…”  Even if it is a failed cause, or a charity case, people still live and work here, and raise their kids here, so I’m not really ready to give up yet — I’ve just given up on the “leadership” of this city doing anything in my best interest.  That’s why it’s the little successes that have to be celebrated until they add up to a lot of little successes. 

  6. Art Ziller August 16, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    The only developement that makes sense in a scarcity economy (minimal disposable income) is organic. In other words watch where it happens without a significant input of public money and then help it along in whatever way makes sense. Thus aside from the obvious (Hertel and Elmwood) we are talking about Grant, Amherst, parts of Main St, bits and pieces of Seneca, Genesee etc.

    Support these tepid beginnings and there is a chance of progress. Why take spending away from these struggling footholds?

    • Peter A Reese August 16, 2010 at 10:36 am #

      Art: You keep talking ike this and we will black ball you from the Buffalo Club.

  7. Beth August 16, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    “Well, what I’m doing is spending my money in other parts of the city, and in the suburbs, and other places where there are things to do.”

    So true. I was recently in downtown for jury duty and once I was released I walked around a bit. There is nothing left in Main Place “mall” (I think I spent $4.00 at the dollar type store on a few things I needed & was cheaper then Target). Oh and another $2.00 on used books at the library.

    I don’t have any answers as to what can be done to bring “more” into downtown. What is the “more” that is needed? Do we need more retail that closes at 5pm? Do we need more restaurants & bars that are only busy on game nights?

    • Peter A Reese August 16, 2010 at 10:58 am #

      The whole concept of “downtown” needs re-examination. We may need a focal point for government and the courts, but the idea that businesses must be close together is based on Seventeenth Century mercantilism. Today you can easily interact with a company located on the other side of the moon. It is not clear to me why we need housing, major retail or entertainment in the “downtown”. Seems to me most people in Erie County voted not to shop, live and play in downtown Buffalo sometime in the 1960s.

      • Art Ziller August 16, 2010 at 11:10 am #

        People crave proximity. I love 17th century mercantilism. We need a zocalo. Perhaps a few. Strategically placed, not large, with small locally owned shops(stalls). And Peter many of those who fled for the boomerized suburbs now crave city life. Give them a place that Jane Jacobs would like and let the speculation begin. Also some small cooperative plots for locavore farming…

    • Betty Jean Grant August 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

      Beth: What we need is more retail clothing shops and stores. I do not like shopping for clothes and shoes outside of the city. Unfortunately, there are no quality clothing stores downtown for male or female shoppers. Many of my friends and a lot of monied, professional individuals in Buffalo feel the same way. The Main Place Mall could have the same level of retail it had when I came to Buffalo 40 years ago. Bring in the retail and the Buffalo residents will patronize them. As a follow up: why can’t the Canalside project resemble the Baltimore waterfront? Beautiful and successful!

  8. AL August 16, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Buffalo is a city of neighborhoods. All this emphasis on downtown always seems to come at the expense of the neighborhoods in Buffalo where most Buffalo residents live, work and play.

  9. BobbyCat August 16, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    I’ll skip the topic of danger for later.

    For now, let’s me pro-active with : Hockey. Build an olympic sized outdoor skating rink that can accommodate hockey games and free skaters as well. Not a stadium – just a rink and some rest rooms. Hockey teams can reserve ice time, and pickup games would be welcomed, but part of the rink would always be reserved for recreational skaters. Security cameras and phones to Buffalo PD, check; good lighting, check. Open most of the time, check. (24/7? dunno) An easy walk from the MetroRail, check. Admission should be nominal. After the game some players will frequent local establishments – yet to be built. I think there are enough skaters in the metro area to keep the place busy. Some couples would plan a skate-date with dinner afterward. After a Sabres game some fans will want to strap on their skates and do a little flying themselves.

    Before you say it’s BS, remember that every great idea, indeed every great invention is at first scorned by a greek chorus of naysayers, until its perfected and adopted. Then people say they don’t know how they got along without it.

    I’m not a die hard hockey fan nor a skater, I’m more of a crasher on skates. So tell me, could it work?

  10. Bob Loblaw August 16, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    Pete Reese, spitting truth from his wealthy Central Park environs. Alan, you’re not down like Pete, who has taken the huge risk of living in one of Buffalo’s oldest and toniest neighborhoods.

    • Peter A Reese August 16, 2010 at 11:57 am #

      Bob: We bought our house and moved to the City from Amherst in 1977, right after Arthur O Eve won the Democatric Primary for mayor and white flight was at its peak. You could have bought the same place if you had come up with $46K. Not my fault this area got popular. Now I can’t afford to live here on my meager fixed income.

  11. Hank August 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I saw the shootings on the national news. Alan’s sure getting beat up for his opinion. I’m sure it’s true that downtown is not often hearing the sounds of gunfire. Nobody there to shoot at most of the time. And this was not a random shooting or the work of some nutjob. However, for the commentor that said downtown takes attention away from the neighborhoods—–Hang out in the Fruit Belt, Riverside/Black Rock, or the Iron Triangle and see how much gunfire you hear at night.
    I was in Virigina Beach a few months ago for a conference. I stayed at a Westin Hotel that stands in what was (when I lived there 89-97) a large wooded lot behind a Taco Bell very close to the Interstate that runs to the beach, but about 9 miles from the ocean front. Around this Westin grew up a performing arts center, trendy eateries with 3 floors of condos above (parking provided by the month in the Westin Ramp), along with plenty of places to buy gifts and other items. Business center with UPS/Fedex/Kinko’s, etc. All in a space that was less than 4 city blocks square. I was more than impressed.

    Retail in Downtown would have to be open in the evenings, as it once was. Look at the Buffalo history websites to see what Main St USED to look like. My mom took the bus from Riverside downtown to do her Christmas shopping at places like AM&A’s and other downtown sites before she learned how to drive in the mid 60’s. Did she carry her stuff home on the bus? Nope. The “Downtown Merchants Delivery Service” would bring the stuff to the house in a Step Van the same color as a UPS van. Quite convienent before the days of online shopping. Outdoor Skating? Buffalo South puts up a skating rink every winter in Downtown Charlotte. Well lit with security personnel, restrooms nearby, vendors ready to sell you a coffee or other hot drink or snack, music playing from loudspeakers.

    The question begs—if other cities can just “DO IT”, why can’t Buffalo? Buffalo might not be 100% dead, but times running out. And you don’t have to live in the city limits to be upset, concerned and disgusted by what’s going on.

  12. Warren August 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    >>”I’m not a cop, nor a sociologist, so I’m not going to criticize the police, or that they have no residency requirement. I’m not going to make snarky comments about Derenda’s first real test as commissioner and how he’s doing. I’m not going to rail against the Brown administration and how it routinely plays down crime statistics.”

    In short, Alan: maybe you should.

    Six murders in 48 hours, and the exposure of a hapless commissioner should be red meat.

    • SusanMary&Joseph August 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Nice of the Buffalo News to run the front-page group photo of black men making gang signals while holding liquor bottles. It’s the gangs that are shooting things up.

  13. joker August 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Six murders in 48 hours and it’s the cops’ fault? that’s like saying that because so many Americans are obese it’s Weightwatchers’ fault. Until society decides to stop warehousing generational welfare recipients, convicted criminals and other detritus in declining cities like Buffalo, we can only consider ourselves lucky there aren’t even more murders.

    • Warren August 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

      Oh, that’s right. The cops aren’t responsible for keeping the streets safe. The cops don’t have any responsibility for controlling gang violence. They’re just there to direct traffic and clean up after quadruple homicide scenes.

  14. BobbyCat August 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    I won’t blame the Chief of Police or any city official. You can’t expect to prevent one spontaneous act of violence.

    Maybe you can blame the person who sold him the gun – assuming it was unregistered.
    Maybe you can blame the guys family – if they knew he was a ticking time bomb and didn’t bother to have him picked up and committed. You might even blame the restaurant if they didn’t call the police when the party got out of control. .

    But how can you stop a crazy man or a drunk from shooting people?
    The vast majority of serial killers are white, BTW. But black on black gun violence has spread westward from East L.A. when the term “drive-by” was coined.

    I think teen aged boys are the most dangerous people in the world. They are pumped full of testosterone and ready to fight just because they can. They are the Jihad bombers sacrificing their lives for 72 virgins; They are the soldiers in Afghanistan adn Somalia. They are the black teens who want to be lionized like the gangbangers they see in the rap videos. And they want to do it to impress the girls.

    I’m guessing that the shooter was a young black man – the same kind of gang members that are starting trouble at the Square, on Chippewa and elsewhere. When these teens get out of control it takes a firm hand to reign them in. Ask the Mayor. But for wild kids without fathers – only grandmothers- the task is too big. The Churches can host all the prayer vigils and preach to the choir, but these kids aren’t listening.

    But I have no solutions either, other than : If you know an individual ready to blow, call the authorities. Let someone know. That’s weak, I know, but its all I have.

    • Warren August 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

      I don’t expect the chief of police to be able to prevent an outrageous act like the one that occurred this weekend. I do expect the chief of police to know what he’s doing after something like this occurs. As for Chippewa Street a couple of weeks ago, that incident was much more foreseeable and preventable. The police don’t really have a handle on Chippewa Street anymore.

      I just don’t like seeing an incompetent mayor and police commissioner getting a pass on this. Yes, it’s the society we live in and all of that, but if there’s shooting, murder and mayhem in the streets, the government has to respond. These guys aren’t equipped to do that. Everyone know it. Few have the guts to say it.

      • BobbyCat August 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

        Warren, I was somewhat surprised to hear Chief Derenda say that the witnesses clamed-up. Of course they did. They’re afraid that the shooter will shoot them. That’s expected. Given that, how were they approached? Did a black cop knock on the door? Were the witnesses given the option of being a confidential informant? Can neighboorhood ministers help?

        I’ll assume that Homicide knows how to do their jobs , how to conduct interviews. But I’m puzzled why the Chief appeared to be outraged. He didn’t strike the right tone. I think accommodation is whats needed.

  15. Andrew Kulyk August 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Alan I know pro sports is off your radar screen. But our three pro sports teams, the Sabres, Bandits and Bisons provide a downtown entertainment option that IS a “non drinking thing to fucking do”. One of the major reasons I invested and moved downtown is so that I could be a hop and a skip away from the ballpark or the arena. A brisk walk on a summer night or a short and free ride on the metrorail in the winter and I am there!

  16. lulu August 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I want to see something on the waterfront that could NOT be located in a spot without the water/wind/proximity to the river. I like the idea of a having a significant park like setting (don’t hate) with kayak/canoe/paddleboat/kite rentals, chartered fishing or sailboat day trips, hot air balloon rides, a golf course, hell, even a cool miniature golf course, a running track that surrounds an ice rink – all things that require physical activity and enjoyment of the beauty of a natural waterfront experience. A dock with slips that boaters can tie up to is essential. Retail other than food/drinks/amenities on a small/local scale to support visitors who are there to enjoy the outdoor water-related activities does not make sense to me. I’d also like to see a water/weather research institute (similar to the suggested and often criticized weather museum but more in line with a Hauptmann Woodward type of organization – top notch scientists and researchers focused on water related issues facing today’s world – with an educational/interesting museum like component. This could bring some high paying job opportunities that could ultimately improve life on earth for generations to come.

    • SusanMary&Joseph August 17, 2010 at 10:38 am #

      Lulu, I think rowing (Crew) fit s the bill, and YES we have made some small strides (new Frank LLoyd Wright Boathouse), but I’ve been to Crew Regattas in other cities where thousands of young people and their parents come from all over to compete for a “Cup” = translating into tourisim, hotels, food and transportation dollars to be made from a single event, which usually span several days. We have the natural resource as well as the infrastructure, now we need someone who knows what he’s doing to promote it.

  17. Leo Bronstein August 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    Whoah, great discussion here (besides Peter Reese’s municipal-sectarian bullshit attacks)!

    I think BobbyCat has the best handle on the big picture analysis behind this tragic eruption of violence downtown.

    The age old placing of blame upon individuals for this sort of institutional violence is nothing but reactionary. The blame falls upon society as a whole, with special emphasis on the most powerful of individuals and groups who possesses the means of affecting the greatest social change.

    Any society that places the greatest social priority on competition, atomized material gains and anachronistic scarcity models, will ultimately be a cruel game of musical chairs. Throw in ever-increasing industrial efficiency (less human labor required to produce the same amount of goods) and an international division of labor (race-to-the-bottom outsourcing/exploitation of underdeveloped lands and peoples), and we get in advanced nations like the US, whole populations that have little-to-nothing to offer to the greater economy because they are essentially rendered useless in terms of economic utility.

    Preventing these sort of shootings will require attacking the problem at its source. Police can only react to events, not innovate solutions to greater social problems. Such solutions may be a bit unsettling to most at first. I have a few but this ain’t the time nor place to go into such detail. In the meantime, y’all do the math.

  18. eliz. August 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    While it’s true that places like Hallwalls, Squeaky, Book Arts, Soundlab, and so on have specific audiences, my phone is buzzing every hour with FB invites to evening events (film screenings, concerts, receptions) they are hosting, which are also publicly advertised.  They are all more active during most evenings than they are during the day, when only staff is there.
     And of course the theaters ONLY have evening events. 
    These attractions are not to be dismissed that quickly.  If people are looking for a restaurant downtown, it is often because they have been to Shea’s or one of these other places. These venues have committed a lot of their resources to staying downtown and should be commended for it. They do provide a sizable amount of people with what reason there is to go down there on a weekday night.

    • Christopher Smith August 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

      While it’s true that places like Hallwalls, Squeaky, Book Arts, Soundlab, and so on have specific audiences, my phone is buzzing every hour with FB invites to evening events (film screenings, concerts, receptions) they are hosting, which are also publicly advertised. They are all more active during most evenings than they are during the day, when only staff is there.

      I don’t want this to come across as disrespectful, but I would disagree that these events serve a “sizable amount of people”. They serve a sizable amount of people that enjoy cocktail receptions, screenings at Squeaky or events at WNYBAC, but I wouldn’t claim that to be a wide ranging demographic. I, for one, couldn’t be less interested in those types of events.

      We can argue all day about whether or not the attractions of downtown simultaneously serve the hipsters/poor/middle class/rich, singles/DINKs/families, young/old, cultural enthusiasts/sports fans/shoppers/eaters or white/black/ethnic groups of the region.

      A better question to ask is whether or not we should be trying to make downtown a cultural/retail center or a daytime business center surrounded by interesting neighborhoods.

      • eliz. August 17, 2010 at 10:59 am #

        Well, Chris, since you don’t go to these events and I do, I’d guess I’d be more able to guess at how many people they serve. In any case, my main point is that there is no one thing that everyone will love. You’ll have your people who come downtown for theater, those who come for music, those who come for festivals, for sports, etc. It would be nice to have more shopping.
         I just don’t think it’s very helpful to dismiss any of it, or inaccurately characterize that which is actually nighttime as daytime. Or assume that it has no place in a vision of a thriving downtown.

  19. Hank August 16, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    35 odd years ago, a portion of downtown Norfolk, VA, right along the Elizabeth River, was a row of closed, decaying warehouses and wharves. I guess what it took was the Mayor and Council having to look out the front windows of Norfolk City Hall and seeing the shit every day that finally got things moving.

    The warehouses and wharves were torn down. The street was re-named “Waterside Drive”. Along the river there now stands: A 20 odd story bank/office building. next to it, a 2 level shopping center called Waterside Mall (though it’s no Main Place). Next to it another complex with a Hooters, Phillips Seafood and other eateries. Next to it, The Omni Waterside Hotel. Access to all of these facilities is available from the street side, and the river via a 250 slip Marina. Next to the Hotel is a large green space called Town Point Park. Concert venue, festivals etc. Next to it—-Nauticus, a national oceanographic museum. Tied up next to the museum is the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa class Battleship.

    Why can’t Buffalo do this? They already have the ship. An Aquarium wouldn’t be a bad anchor for Canalside, no?

  20. BuffaloFailing August 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    Why do you dismiss the idea of a park? Raze all the crappy condos, projects and hotels on the waterfront and make a gigantic park. Chicago’s entire waterfront is a series of connected parks, free and accessible to the public, where everyone in the city and suburbs converges to enjoy themselves. Of course, they planned the city right, and also have all the major attractions of the city across the street from the waterfront parks. The marina, harbor and LaSalle park are already great places to enjoy the weekend. Get rid of the crap in-between and connect them. We don’t need to build bland suburban consumerist crap just to satisfy Alan and Brian. Make it a draw for artists, musicians and gay people. Eventually, it will become gentrified and as boring and Transit Road. 

  21. Seymour Blue August 17, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I can’t stop laughing at the imagery of “What’s next? A massive Dollar General?” Many of the people who think they are “doing something,” are actually just stopping everything. Great post!

  22. JLD August 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm #



  1. On Guns and Downtown | - August 16, 2010

    […] Alan Bedenko had this to say in his post today; Well, what I’m doing is spending my money in other parts of the city, and in the suburbs, and other places where there are things to do. The beauty of something like Canal Side is that it could be the spark that sets off a fire of entrepreneurial development downtown. If it had actual things to do that would make regular people come downtown, then other businesses could fill it in, as well as the immediate surrounding areas to support the foot traffic that hadn’t been present on Main Street downtown in generations. […]

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