Tag Archives: Buffalo New York

Things WNY Does Right

28 Jul

1. Summertime Festivals 

Along with Sabres games, they put the lie to the notion that suburbanites won’t come to downtown Buffalo because of all the scary bums/[insert ethnic group]/emptiness/one-way streets/lack of parking.

If you give people something fun to do, something to see, something to buy and shop for, they’ll come. The festivals bring a mass of people downtown several times a year, so we’re not talking about one store making a difference – it has to be big enough and novel enough and, above all, fun.

So, festivals are something WNY does right, and efforts being made to grow downtown Buffalo ought to learn some lessons from them.

Cowed CanalSide Crowdsources

30 Jun

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s implementation of “placemaking” is happening, guys!  Instead of ground being broken on a big store, (pshaw! – everyone hates big stores like what AM&A’s used to be!), which would, in turn, attract other businesses, we have this:

Food stand 1

No, seriously, the food shack under the Skyway is almost done! Soon, you’ll be able to eat food near the water. (Bathrooms may come shortly, too, ZOMG! And CHAIRS, GUYS! CHAIRS!)

Naturally, I’m coming off as snarky because I’m disappointed in the pace of progress, which has mostly been hampered by protests and threatened litigation.  Par for the course for any Buffalo development, really.  I hope – truly hope – that the most recent plans that ECHDC has for Canal Side, involving interpretive canals, a public market space, and build-outs for other retail and food outlets will happen soon.

We’re close to ten years out from the first announcement of Bass Pro. We’re now supposed to get excited over a shack that would look at home at any little league field.

To make matters more bizarre, the ECHDC is so proud of this shack that it’s holding a naming contest for it.

Not everything needs to be crowdsourced, guys. How about you bid out the food operation, and let the food operator choose the name?  Fred Kent and his PPS were paid six figures of taxpayer money for their Google Image Search and unscientific “power of ten” feel-good hocus-pocus. I seriously want our money back. After all, we could have built a second shack with it.

But we held our own contest on Twitter last week under the #ecshack (Erie Canal Shack) hashtag. Some of the entries:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/wnymediachris/status/84334020174938112″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/wnymediachris/status/84332632447516672″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/labgrrl/status/84333084278927361″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84332153952935936″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ccharvella/status/84335083980472321″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84330606359621635″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TomDolina/status/84336873652232192″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/redsbasement/status/84336917436567552″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84329793084080128″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/drwarner29/status/84328763004948480″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TomDolina/status/84324953847119872″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84324833210540032″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84321213501018113″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84321068101275648″%5D

For some reason, the Twitter search function isn’t working quite right, so a lot of my favorites aren’t available. Suffice it to say many of them involved “Shack” or “Shed”.

Disappointment breeds cynicism and sarcastic reaction – all three are growth industries in Buffalo.

Knee Jerk? Not Real.

1 Jun

Having proudly derided “Buffalo: For Real” here, I was interested to read this defense of the now-infamous slogan, penned by one of its pro bono creators, Joe Sweeney from local ad agency Travers Collins.

First, it speaks to Buffalo’s authenticity. After conducting some significant research, VBN realized that “cultural tourists” are the folks they should target with this new brand—people who visit a place to learn something, to feel the weight of history, to be inspired by human expression. People who would be intrigued by the prospect of seeing work by Wright, Sullivan, Richardson, Picasso, Kahlo and Burchfield, in a Rust Belt city known mainly for chicken wings and snow. “For Real” speaks to them directly, positioning Buffalo as a place where all of the sights are genuine, and none of the parks are themed.

Second, the line implicitly references the rampant skepticism that’s out there about our city. For far too long, when we’ve told out-of-towners that we love it here, they’ve responded incredulously — “For real?”

Now we have a comeback. For real, we love this place. For real, it’s beautiful. For real, it will move you.

I’m still having trouble deciphering what an “authentic” sight, is as compared with an inauthentic one.  But apart from the silly existential argument – if I can see it, isn’t it “real” and “authentic”? – the reason why this branding was so ripe for mockery has to do with something Buffalo is great at:

Even when we think we’re promoting and puffing the region, we do it in an apologetic way.

Excuses, excuses. We’re not as great as we once were, but we’re too poor and depressed to have torn it all down to make way for new stuff! We might have a dead downtown, but hey – no chains!

But these lines, earlier in the piece, stuck out:

I get the criticism, to an extent. Lord knows we should be critical of anything purporting to help our city. If we didn’t make our voices heard, we might have a fishing superstore dwarfing our historic waterfront. Plus, it’s tempting to make fun of a new “slogan,” especially when it’s for a place that’s a go-to punch line for bad comedians.

I think “purporting” is the key word in that passage. That video and this slogan merely purport to help the city. But they don’t. For the very select few who love old, dead buildings and architecture, they’ll love this campaign.  I’d be willing to bet that lots of people would come to Buffalo for a day trip or weekend from within a 200 mile radius if they knew there was something to do. (Wing Fest, Allentown Art Festival, etc.). I’d be willing to bet that efforts to attract people already in Niagara Falls or Niagara-on-the-Lake would also be lucrative and easy.

We have crappy signage, poor tourism information at or near the border crossings, (Ontario has staffed welcome centers off the QEW and 420), and some sort of ridiculous conceit about being “real”. We’re critical of this campaign because the campaign sucks, not because it “purports to help the city”.

And because we “made our voices heard”, there’s absolutely nothing – no fishing store, no nothing – on the Inner Harbor Canal Side parcels right now. Just some benches, some grass, some ruins.

I hope this kind of knee-jerk pessimism isn’t the lasting legacy of this marketing effort, because I really like “For Real.”

And another thing. It wasn’t “knee-jerk”; it wasn’t reflexive pessimism. It was a carefully thought-out, considered negative reaction to something silly.

Republican PAC endorses Republican

17 May

This is phenomenal. Corwin blocked WNYMedia cameras from the event she held yesterday with a national bus-centric PAC run by Republican political consultants, but that didn’t stop the approved media from asking the same damn questions we would have.

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The national “Tea Party Express” group, run by someone you never heard of who parachuted into town to hold a private and poorly attended event in an obscure Amherst shopping center, unsurprisingly endorsed the establishment Republican candidate. Among the luminaries who helped endorse Corwin were 7-time candidate Lenny Roberto, Grand Island firebrand Rus Thompson, and email enthusiast Carl Paladino.

Paladino’s presence was interesting, given that the Tea Party Express last rolled into town on a bus made of Republican PAC money, and issued this statement:

TEA PARTY EXPRESS STATEMENT CONDEMNING CARL PALADINO

“Carl Paladino is absolutely incompatible with anything the Tea Party Express stands for. Pornographic, racist e-mails – how do you think that we would ever support something like that? Clearly Paladino doesn’t understand what this movement is about if he touted himself as a Tea Party candidate. Because again, we’re a human rights movement, and it is flat out impossible for an advocate for human rights to embrace what Paladino stands for.”

So, that must mean that anyone who seeks and accepts Paladino’s support and endorsement is also “incompatible” with what the Republican PAC-BUS stands for.

Outside Corwin’s private, empty event, libertarian tea partier Jim Ostrowski (who works for the Davis campaign) confronted the woman from the Republican PAC who was desperately trying to return to her rental car and fly the Christ out of this dreary, drizzly backwater back to Washington. She told Ostrowski that Davis was as much a part of the “tea party as Barack Obama”.  Ostrowski asked her if she’s ever spoken with Davis, continuing by explaining that he was instrumental in organizing the first tea party events in Buffalo, that this woman wasn’t from Buffalo, and that she has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about.  Of course, Jim’s right.

I wonder how much Langworthy now wishes he’d not been quite so hasty in posting this edited clip to YouTube. Its benefit has been negligible, while its cost has been huge. The only people who are buying this video as evidence of an angry Davis assaulting a cameraman are Republican tools from out of town who have no influence in this race. The people who live here know it was a setup. I’m also wondering whether the people who live here in this district are taking kindly to all the outside money and influence flowing into this race.

Buffalo: It Gets Better #buffslogan

11 May

Yesterday morning, Visit Buffalo Niagara (f/k/a the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors’ Bureau) released its new branding idea for Buffalo.

Buffalo For Real.

According to news reports, this was “developed by a volunteer team of local advertising and marketing executives” and will promote the region’s “architecture, culture, museums and historical sites.”

County Executive Chris Collins has pushed throughout his administration to wrest control of the CVB and install his own hand-picked choices. Not surprisingly, he’s thrilled with their work-product, saying that “Buffalo For Real” is “exactly what this community needs at this point in time…It covers all of the treasures we have.” Drawing a parallel that no one’s ever drawn, he added, “We’re not Disney World. We’re not trying to be Disney World. I look at this branding campaign, and I say maybe I need to go see what this is all about.”

Sites such as the Olmsted Parks, the Roycroft campus in East Aurora and the Darwin Martin House can be powerful magnets for the empty-nesters and the highly educated “bifocal” class that are drawn to architectural and cultural attractions, Gallagher-Cohen said. That also includes travelers interested in gardening and those partial to independent local restaurants…

…”For people in that targeted demographic, we have the Disney World of cultural travel. Among that group, we have something to sell,” Gallagher-Cohen said. “You should come to Buffalo because you can also see Niagara Falls.”

Astonishing as it is to see how Chris Collins will be petulant and combative even when he’s pleased with something, his political ally, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown added, “This campaign pulls that all together…The product is as good as the community we are branding.”

The branding wasn’t done by a professional PR or advertising firm working pursuant to a paid contract. It was done by a committee of volunteers “on a shoestring“. I don’t doubt the professionalism or sincerity of the people who came together to dream this up, but there’s a reason not everything is designed by committee, and there’s a reason why PR and advertising agencies charge clients fees. If the politicians behind Visit Buffalo Niagara were serious about promoting the region in a professional way, they’d likely have solicited pitches for a campaign, and selected and retained their favorite.

There’s a video to accompany and introduce this new branding campaign, too:

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It’s beautifully shot and produced. It makes the city look a lot prettier than it generally does. But I hate this video. Viscerally. I hate the Sarah Palin-lite “real America” conceit. I hate the constant repetition of “we were awesome once, we’ll be awesome again” and “we’re right on the cusp of a rebirth” type language. The subtext of that is, of course, that since we’re in an interregnum between periods of past and future greatness, we’re pretty mediocre right now. The plodding narration of what amounts to a long apologia for the region is tired, repetitive, and its content is jejune. Conceits, dull, repetition, a backhanded insult, and chock full of wistful feelings and nostalgia.

I’m so sick of hearing how great and important Buffalo once was, especially when it comes to promoting tourism. Who cares about how good it once was? I want to know what’s good NOW. If you’re someone looking to pop down to Buffalo from the Falls, or a day trip from a city that’s within a 3 or 4 hour radius of here, you need to know what there is to do NOW.

I didn’t like “Sense of Place” when it came out, and this new “Buffalo For Real” video reminds me a lot of the video that Mark Goldman commissioned to promote his personal vision for Buffalo’s waterfront.

In response, Twitter blew up yesterday with proposed slogans for Buffalo that are more appropriate than “Buffalo For Real”. A scan of the #buffslogan hashtag will reveal what was discussed (Buffalo: Like Canada Without the Free Medical; Buffalo: Let’s Pretend it Works), and the movement moved virally eastward, where Rochester-based tweeps came up with #rocslogan. (My entry was: “We Invented Wegmans. You’re Welcome“. Sarcasm and gallows humor is a great way to vent frustration at poor marketing choices and years of political, economic, and social stasis. Naturally, a few people got upset about “poisonous cynicism” and “downers” or “haters“.

Buffalo For Real is stupid. It’s stupid because if you add some punctuation, it becomes a negative slogan. (Buffalo. For Real?) It’s designed to market the region to one specific subset of traveler – old people who like to look at architecture, and to dine out at indy restaurants. It is almost exactly what Brian Castner referred to as the “Donn Esmonde plan” for promoting Buffalo in a piece he wrote about a year ago.

I love Buffalo and I’m an inveterate day-tripper. I have little kids and we don’t much give a crap about looking at buildings, instead preferring to see and do some fun stuff. In Cleveland, we go to the zoo, a museum, and do some shopping/browsing/walking. In Toronto, we go to the ROM, the AGO, the zoo, the CN Tower, and take strolls along Yonge or Queen West or the Kensington Market area. When we visit these types of places, we don’t much consider cities’ past or future greatness. We don’t much consider their political, economic, or social worries, much less pay attention to apologia for them. But if someone told me that a trip to Cleveland is a trip to “real America”, I’d think that to be quite obnoxious and presumptuous, implying that other places aren’t “real” or “authentic”.

Nostalgia and authenticity are what we fall back on to promote this region. Too bad they’re only important to small subsets of locals and travelers alike. A professional, apolitical convention and visitor’s bureau could probably come up with a reasonably effective way to market the region to all sorts of potential travelers, not just the older art ‘n architecture buffs. It’s designed to help the city-based intelligentsia feel good about Buffalo, and promotes the things that they hold dear. Hell, it even excluded our lovely, family-friendly zoo.

I’d also like to know why the CVB’s Twitter account features a picture of “Karen”, the woman who posts its Tweets. Why doesn’t it show something, oh, I don’t know, like Buffalo?!

The whole thing is thrown together and embarrassing. People will continue to visit, but it will mostly be expats and these “cultural tourists” everyone’s trying to attract. People will continue to visit, but it will be in spite of the CVB’s efforts, not because of them.

The Placemaking Scam

14 Apr

They never told you what they were doing was merely temporary. They never explained to the assembled crowd that it was all a stopgap to make the waterfront less ugly and more usable for the period of time before final structures could be built.

That’s why Donn Esmonde giddily wrote this column a few days earlier, during one of the PPS’ “let’s talk benches” mixers.

But with respect to the Mark Goldman-led insistence that the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation embrace “lighter, cheaper, quicker,” the Project for Public Spaces, Fred Kent, crowdsourcing of ideas, and all kinds of unproven, untested, unscientific gobbledygook, there has been a wholesale theft of money from the people of New York State.  I’ve sent an email to ECHDC asking how much, exactly, PPS was paid.

Because, as far as I’m concerned, the ECHDC could have taken the money it spent on Fred Kent and the PPS, burned it, flushed the ashes down the nearest toilet, then spat on them, and gotten a better return on their investment than the unserious, make-believe nonsense the PPS provided.

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For giving us the work-product of unempirical wishes, a Google image search, and an unwieldly PowerPoint presentation, the PPS or Mark Goldman should pay the people of the State of New York back every dime of money that went into that embarrassment.

Just a couple of weeks after the PPS punked Buffalo, the ECHDC presented what seems like the 900th serious plan for developing the Aud block. It’s a beautiful plan that features *gasp* underground parking. I eagerly await the howls of disapproval from Buffalo’s ersatz intelligentsia, demanding permanent implementation of “flexible lawns”.

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The Buffalo Special Economic Zone

31 Mar

Yesterday, I posted about the Partnership for Public Space’s Tuesday presentation, which I found to be largely based on supposition, incomplete, and improperly presented to the assembled audience. I can’t believe the ECHDC spent money on that, and all to shut a couple of loudmouths up.

A camel is a horse designed by committee, so while it’s nice that we crowdsource the 9,000th iteration of what the waterfront should be, we need a real solution to downtown’s problems. The central business district is a wasteland. We’re now talking about creating a new little shopping district at the foot of Main Street out of whole cloth. But even if we build it, how do you ensure that they come, and that it’s sustainable? Just being there for when hockey or lacrosse games get out isn’t enough. Just being there in nice weather isn’t enough.  It has to be something people want to come to, and people want to return to.

In an economically depressed and shrinking town where entrepreneurship is sorely needed – especially among disadvantaged populations – we can turn downtown Buffalo into something attractive not by centrally planning a waterfront, or doing a 2011 version of what really amounts to 50s era urban renewal. Two votes and a stroke of a pen is all that’s needed.

The area outlined in red ought to be designated a special economic zone. And yes, I use that term specifically to liken it to what China has done to help build and modernize its industry.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be opposed to all of Erie and Niagara Counties being designated special economic zones, but for the purposes of this argument, I’m just focusing on what should be Buffalo’s downtown commercial core.

There are myriad problems with downtown and planning that need to be addressed – above all, modernization and coordination of parking that is relegated to ramps and underground lots. Every parcel within that red zone that isn’t built on should be shovel-ready land. The zoning code should require parking for new development to be adequate and hidden. This means extra cost, but the benefits of locating to the special economic zone means lower taxes and streamlined regulatory processes.

Within the zone, the county and state would waive their respective sales taxes.  That means businesses outside the zone would still have to charge 8.75% on purchases, while businesses within the zone would be tax-free.  It’d be like all of downtown being a duty-free shop.

No, it’s not fair to merchants outside the zone. But life isn’t fair. Furthermore, most of the merchants in Buffalo and outside the zone serve the surrounding residents and will still be patronized out of sheer convenience.  Furthermore, the influx of people and businesses attracted by the SEZ will ultimately help those businesses thrive, as well.

Development would still be subject to Buffalo’s zoning and planning bureaucracies, but the rules would be simplified and permits & approval would be harmonized and streamlined. Property taxes would be reduced or eliminated, depending on the parcel. However, properties would be assessed not based on what they are (e.g., empty lots), but on what their value ought rightly be if developed.

By turning the central business district into a tax-free special economic zone, you give people 8.75 reasons to do business and conduct commerce in downtown Buffalo over anywhere else. Creation of a waterfront district while ignoring the decline and blight of the rest of downtown seems to me to be counterintuitive.

By executing a plan such as this, zoning the waterfront districts, and having the ECHDC or state spend public money solely on the improvement and installation of necessary infrastructure, transfer of title for all parcels to one single entity to speed development, institution of a design and zoning plan that cannot be deviated from, and – most importantly – remediating the environmental nightmares under the soil throughout ECHDC’s mandated districts, we can then auction the parcels off to qualified buyers.

That is how downtowns revive organically – through private initiative and private money.  Government can do its job and merely provide the private sector with the proper environment to do business and build. It doesn’t get faster, quicker, or cheaper than that.

Yesterday on WECK 1230-AM

31 Mar

I joined Corey Griswold for the free-wheeling, mid-day local micro-talk show “1230 at 12:30” to discuss the Partnership for Public Spaces’ remarkable PowerPoint presentaion and the power of 10 and how we prioritize matters in this city.

At 4pm, Brad Riter and Chris Smith interviewed Green Party candidate in NY-26 Ian Murphy.  Murphy is running what has long been my dream campaign – substance mixed with snark. He has a finely honed and profane disdain for things that suck and are stupid, and an articulate passion for things that he believes to be important.

Remember how a week or so ago, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said something about how Buffalo wishes it had our problems? I didn’t do a post about it because I knew that the usual local suspects would express outrageous outrage while ignoring the fact that, to a certain degree Bloomberg was absolutely right.  Not that we wish we had an overcrowded and overpriced island of millions, but that we have a crisis of too much supply and not enough demand, while New York has the exact opposite.

New York Magazine asked Murphy about this, because frankly what else is a New York City-based journalist going to ask someone from Buffalo at this time?

Mayor Bloomberg recently apologized for saying that Buffalo is full of empty space and implying that it was not a very enticing place to live. Apology accepted?
No, he shouldn’t apologize for that. Buffalo fucking sucks. And everyone here knows it. There’s a lot of good things about Buffalo, but it is full of empty space, it’s full of urban decay, everyone’s leaving, and instead of putting on a cheery, happy face and denying it, let’s admit it to ourselves and make it better, yeah?

How do you think saying “Buffalo sucks” is going to go over with people who live in Buffalo?
Well, Buffalo’s not in my district, so Buffalo can kiss my ass.

Oh, I thought you had some northern suburbs of Buffalo in there.
Ah, we do, we do. I mean, I love Buffalo. I grew up here, and you better write that there’s a lot of good things about it because there is. But there are a lot of problems. There are a lot of empty buildings, there is a lot of empty space, and there are not a lot of economic opportunities. That’s one of the reasons I am running, is to bring that to the region. I don’t think that’s something to apologize for. I mean, did he apologize for calling Irish people drunks yet? Did he do that?

He kind of gave a half apology.
I was about three fifths into my bottle of scotch when I read that, and I was eating my potatoes, and, uh … I was mightily upset.

So you didn’t have a problem with that.
No, I think it was just a joke that didn’t go over, and I think people are just way too thin-skinned about everything.

Indeed. Murphy is absolutely right that Buffalo needs to stop strutting around like a peacock, pretending like it’s on exactly the right track, when the objective evidence proves the exact opposite.  While Mayor Brown whinges about being “pissed” about Bloomberg’s response, he should instead be focused on slowing – if not reversing – the precipitous decline of the city over which he presides. There’s civic pride, and then there’s mindless cheerleading. We need less of the latter.

Bringing us back to the WECK theme, when this Bloomberg thing became “news”, I talked with Brad Riter about it.  Fast Forward to 20:35.

Placemaking: Canal Side Buffalo

30 Mar
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Fred Kent of the PPS

On March 29, 2011, Fred Kent of the Partnership for Public Spaces donned LL Bean gear and presented to the assembled crowd of about 400 people the proposals developed by three distinct citizens’ committees set up by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.  The PowerPoint itself is shown immediately below, and I took several photographs which are featured below, culminating in a view one gets at 6:30 pm while exiting the HSBC Arena.  If you’ve been following Andrew Kulyk’s posts comparing Canal Side with other arenas throughout the country, you’ll find that quite infuriating.

I’m not 100% sold on “lighter, quicker, cheaper”. It all sounds like a lot of hocus-pocus, none of it ever having been subjected to any objective studies, and it’s astonishing that the development of four or five city blocks (not including the Outer Harbor or Buffalo River areas) can cause such consternation and controversy. I get the sense from some of this that we’re throwing stuff at the wall to see if it will stick on the one hand, and selling our waterfront short on the other.  I like some of the ideas (marketplace, bistro, toilets) but detest others (“flexible lawn?” “multi-use square?” “central square?”). Frankly, open space and green space doesn’t seem like much of a draw or improvement to me.

Kent talked about “triangulation” (“Triangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each other”) and the “power of ten“; ten destinations with ten places with ten things to do will naturally bring people. That sounds great, but he admitted in the next breath that that theory has never been tested. So, WTF? How much is this guy getting paid for this?  And what’s such a great draw about a lawn under the Skyway? Are two lawns better?

Four takeaways for me:

1. Kent said, “people attract people, cars attract cars”.  That got a predictable round of applause from the assembled car-haters. Problem is, cars bring people. That’s just a fact.

2. That area has been open space for decades. I don’t believe that simply making the open space under the Skyway prettier is the highest and best use for that property.

3. The Mayor of the City of Buffalo was nowhere to be seen. There were almost 500 people in downtown Buffalo to talk about developing the waterfront, and Mayor Brown was a no-show. In mentioning this to someone, we remarked that we didn’t expect him to come.  That’s somewhat sad. Brown didn’t need to give a speech or grandstand or insert himself into the process.  But it would have been nice if he had been present for the event and to chat with attendees, to have shown an interest.

4. This process is almost a decade old, and even with the advent of ECHDC, the three waterfront districts still haven’t figured out who owns what, who controls what parcels, and what parcels need serious environmental remediation. Tick tock, folks.

There were some good ideas, and the PPS presentation didn’t quite make clear that the committees were charged with coming up with ideas that can be implemented very quickly – by this summer or next. These don’t appear to be permanent plans for redevelopment of Canal Side, an effort that continues until the canals – faux thought they may be – are re-watered, the Donovan Building is brought down, and the entire district is shovel-ready to be made awesome.

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About 3/4 of the crowd

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Fred Kent addresses the crowd

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Flexible Lawn: Inner Harbor

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Multi-Use Market: Inner Harbor

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Bistro

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Inner Harbor - click to enlarge

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Do Not Demolish! Click to enlarge

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Grain elevators: click to enlarge

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WHERE IS IT?! Click to enlarge

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Woof? Click to enlarge

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Just relocate them! All done problems! Click to enlarge.

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Passive-aggressive notes dot com: click to enlarge

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Shut down the Skyway: click to enlarge

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Don't forget!: click to enlarge

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Green dot: Click to enlarge

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As it stands now. Click to enlarge.

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As it stands now. Click to enlarge.

$5MM in Poverty-Reduction Funds to Statler?

24 Mar

Poverty Reducer

Local restaurateur, developer, parking lot owner, and friend-of-Byron’s Mark Croce famously announced that he would commence an incremental rehabilitation of the Statler Towers. For the time being, only the first two floors will be rehabbed to re-enable the ballrooms to be used for events. The upper floors will be rehabbed as the market demands. The deal amazingly closed for only $700,000; in order to make the Statler commercially viable, he will have to repair of the exterior details, many of which have decided to plummet to the ground in recent years.

In order to do that, Croce has applied for a $5.3 million grant from the City of Buffalo, which would likely come from its Community Development Block Grant funding. That money, however, arises out of a HUD program to provide affordable housing and jobs for poverty prevention. Its purpose is to directly benefit low and middle-income people and reduce neighborhood blight. What that has to do with rehabilitating a millionaire’s $700,000 hotel rehab is beyond me.

Add to that the fact that it was announced just yesterday that a Croce LLC just closed on a $1.2 million Orchard Park mansion. I’m sure congress had in mind that CDBG money would go to help develop a crumbling downtown hotel owned by someone who can afford to plunk down $1.2 MM for a nice 12,800 SF house in a tony suburb. Right?