Tag Archives: MGPP

The Modified General Project Plan for Canal Side, Modified

30 Nov

On Monday, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation voted on the Modified General Project Plan.

Based on what you’ve read over the past several weeks, you’d be correct in assuming that this means one level of underground parking – 177 spaces – will be built under the Aud block.

You’d be wrong.

The ECHDC indefinitely tabled its vote on moving forward with the parking structure.

Based on what you’ve read over the past several weeks, you’d also be correct in assuming that this means a handful of “faux canals” would be built, marring the area with their inauthenticity.

You’d be mostly wrong.

The ECHDC has completely reconfigured how the waterways north of Marine Drive will be built and designed.

In an overt nod to Tim Tielman’s concerns, the canal will still be only 4 feet deep and will not include lake water (i.e., pollution), it will follow the elevations that existed at the time the canal terminus district actually had stuff going on – this means that the pedestrian walkways along the canal will be at an elevation lower than street level.

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The design requirements set forth in the MGPP will continue to be carried out, but Marine Drive will not be turned into a bridge, and the Hamburg Drain is staying put.  In addition to keeping lake water out, ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy cited cost and utilities as reasons why transforming Marine Drive by the Commercial Slip into a bridge would not be feasible.

The meeting was packed with concerned citizens, activists, and press. While Tielman was cautiously optimistic about the revisions, the Canal Side Community Alliance and Coalition for Economic Justice – which dropped off about 1,000 postcard petitions for the ECHDC board calling for a community benefits agreement – were all but gushing about how pleased they were that the plan had been modified.  Mark Goldman was not present.  Tielman was displeased, however, that the modified plan did not include Dug’s Dive, and emphases on other historical aspects of the canal terminus.

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Everything was, however, refreshingly free of solar powered carousels.

Levy gave a prepared speech, acknowledging that ECHDC has done a poor job communicating to the public about this project – that most people were getting their information (much of it wrong) from other sources.  He cited a past example as evidence of that communication breakdown – the 2007 imbroglio over locating Bass Pro on the Central Wharf parcel.  When the public made it clear that it didn’t want a store on that site and Bass Pro started looking at the Aud again, ECHDC made the decision to bring the water to Bass Pro, since it couldn’t bring Bass Pro to the water.

Jordan Levy explains the new canal configuration: Click to enlarge

Because Bass Pro was coming in as an anchor tenant, ECHDC made many concessions to it with respect to the rewatered interior canals.  These “mistakes” had been carried over to the current process, and ECHDC decided to fix them over the past few weeks.  The canal will now exactly track the original wherever possible, and the project is no longer a big box lifestyle center, but instead a mixed use neighborhood.

The canal system will extend from the Commercial Slip to Main Street, and in another nod to Mark Goldman, ECHDC will retain the services of Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces.  Levy will also ask the NFTA to transfer its Outer Harbor land to ECHDC, which will pledge $2 million to build a new lakefront park, as well as a sand swimming beach at Gallagher Beach.  $170,000 will be used to renovate the Buffalo Light in time for next year’s preservationist confab.  While acknowledging that they can’t “please everyone”, Levy noted that the ECHDC has listened to community voices and incorporated their concerned into a hastily reconfigured MGPP.

Click to enlarge: new Canal configuration

After Levy’s presentation, Mayor Byron Brown spoke at length, mostly about the need for city people to get jobs through the development and maintenance of this project.  Board member David Colligan noted that he had heard the word “authentic” a hundred times over the past several weeks, and was pleased that the project had now become more so. Board member Julie Barrett-O’Neill thanked the public for its input and moving the project in this direction.  The Empire State Development guy in Albany appearing by teleconference thanked the ECHDC for basically changing everything, and  Stephen Gawlik from the Empire State Development Corporation then asked the board to vote on the new MGPP.

Tim Tielman then spoke (see above), as did Daniel Sack, who asked that committees be set up to govern design. Disgraced former Supreme Court Judge Joseph Makowski is now representing the Marine Drive residents who don’t want their surface parking lot marred by a modern parking garage, and the whole thing reeked of imminent lawsuit.

Afterwards, Levy answered press questions about the new modifications. A new PowerPoint presentation and new renderings now replace the ones shown at the recent open houses (part 1, part 2).  That video will be up later.

ECHDC Board of Directors

What Happened?  Depending on your point of view, the ECHDC either listened earnestly to the concerns brought forward by very prominent members of the public, or else it decided to call the Goldman group’s bluff.

I believe that a good plan was made better.  I reject any suggestion that the MGPP as it stood earlier today – underground parking and shallow canals – was bad, per se.  But by tabling the vote on the Aud block parking, the ECHDC has disarmed one of its opponents’ arguments.  ECHDC also appeased the protesters by modifying the canal system north of Marine Drive to more closely reinterpret the way it originally looked.  Finally, by hiring the very guy Mark Goldman brought to town – Fred Kent – no matter what ends up happening down by the inner harbor, the opposition cannot argue that “if only they had listened to the PPS“, because ECHDC hired the PPS.

Over the next several months, the ECHDC will set up committees to look at how to develop the canals, the outer harbor, and how to reinterpret the area’s history.  The focus is off Bass Pro and on the input of very specialized Buffalo constituencies – like Tim Tielman.

Add today’s events to this list of WNYMedia.net Canal Side history.

The ECHDC Vote on its MGPP Explained

30 Nov

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