Tag Archives: ECCA

Canal Side: Please Read the MGPP

29 Nov

On Saturday, a group of very cold people gathered at Canal Side to protest things.

Among them, a demand that the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” waterfront plan include an artificial corridor down Ohio Street for artists and artisans, culminating in light shows and murals on the grain elevators down near the cement plants and General Mills facility, as well as the rewatering of more of the Erie Canal so as to make it navigable thus requiring moving the Hamburg Drain at a cost estimated to be a few hundred million dollars.  All for what?  So that there might be something nice at the waterfront.

It’s quite evident that the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” mantra is simply Newspeak, and that the vast majority of the people complaining haven’t read, and don’t know what is covered by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s Modified General Project Plan.

Humorously, and perhaps ironically, a similar protest held Saturday had to end early.  As an organizer wrote in an email, “To those that came down after it ended early, we apologize. It was just a tad on the chilly side.”

Maybe if there was something built on the water so as to block out the vicious winds off Lake Erie… but I digress.  At this point, the protesters cite their desire for a nice mixed-use area to grow out of Canal Side.  Interesting, since the MGPP says,

The following specific components of this MGPP will be constructed in Phase 1 of the development by ECHDC with reference to the parcel numbers provided in Exhibit A. Prior to construction of anticipated future phases of the Project as referenced below, the Corporation will amend this MGPP as may be needed to reflect such proposed developments.

Aud Block Parking Structure

On the Aud Block (Parcel A1), bounded by Lower Terrace, Pearl Street, Main Street, and Marine Drive, ECHDC will initially construct an underground one-level, approximately 177 space parking structure, that will be constructed in a manner that will allow for vertical expansion at a later date to increase capacity to accommodate additional cars and/or to support future developments to be located directly above.

Street-level Canal System

Public canal features will be constructed by ECHDC on the Aud and Donovan Blocks. On the Aud Block will be street-level water features interpreting the alignment of the Erie Canal and Commercial Slip, which once crossed the Aud Block. The water features will be constructed to avoid impacting operation and maintenance of the Hamburg Drain.

The street-level canal system west of Main Street will consist of narrow water bodies that will emulate the original Erie Canal system. Several “barges” will be “anchored” in the canals. ECHDC consulted with the Buffalo Maritime Center on the design and historical accuracy of the anchored barges. Anticipated summertime uses will include paddle boats and/or row boats for rent. During winter months, the water features will be drained out and ice skating rinks will be set up lining the Canal. Water depth for the canals will range from 18 inches to three feet. Finishes will be dark to enhance the appearance of depth and provide greater reflectivity at the water surface.

South of the remodeled Donovan Building will be a “dry” canal bed, interpreting the former Hamburg Canal serving as the focal point of the Entertainment District, where waterfront restaurants and nightlife will be located. This section will evoke the feeling of an old canal where the water was drained out and barges settled to the bottom. It is anticipated that the dry canal will be designed as a sustainable garden and beach environment. Surrounding the East Canal on this block will be wide boardwalks for pedestrian and commercial use.

That’s all that’s being discussed right now in this MGPP: one level of underground parking for the benefit of whatever ends up at Canal Side, and  a recreational waterway that tracks the path of the old Erie Canal, which has since been replaced in utility by the Hamburg Drain, which is the fourth largest sewer outflow in the City and is activated every few days. Urbanists tend to prefer underground parking over garages or surface lots, so this is a good thing.  To reconfigure the drain to enable the waterways in question to be navigable would cost millions, and ultimately it would be “navigable” to exactly nowhere.

This seems more and more to be the protestations of people who are either (a) protesting for protesting’s sake; and/or (b) largely uninformed about what’s involved in the MGPP.

Even more devastating to the entire process, the paper of record – which sits just across the street from Canal Side – is taking the side of Mark Goldman and his supporters.

Like I said before, Buffalo doesn’t suffer from bad development decisions as much as it suffers from a complete absence of development decisions.