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Orlando’s lessons for Canalside

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

In downtown Orlando, they have opened up the glitzy new Amway Center, the new home of the NBA Orlando Magic. But unlike Buffalo, planners and developers there did not leave the adjoining streetscape in the condition of empty, windswept cobblestone streets. They did not create a muddy hole in the ground which will stay that way for decades to come. Adjoining residential dwellers did not go into convoluted hysterics at the horror of parking ramps being erected in their proximity. Local leaders did not engage with small minded obstructionists who decreed that any growth or construction would not be “sustainable”, that the land is “sacrosanct”, and they would sue if they did not get their way.

The Amway Center is a fine addition to the gleaming Orlando cityscape. It is visible and accessible right along I-4. Best of all, the arena is offering new life to a development called the Church Street Station.

Church Street was developed back in the 70s and 80s as a one stop nightclub destination. With architecture mimicking New Orlean’s French Quarter buildings, the neighborhood went into decline, despite the growth of the city core and the construction of new condo towers and offices right in the neighborhood.

Enter the Orlando Magic. Opened just last fall, the new Amway Center is designed as a pedestrian friendly and city friendly venue. The adjoining streetscape blends in with the surrounding neighborhood nicely. Street pavers, architectural elements and landscaping and lighting create a town square feel. The adjoining street is closed off on event days, allowing for outdoor concerts, game areas, food stands and other people-drawing elements to take center stage.

Interesting too, that across the street from the arena is a parking ramp. Yet the entire ground floor facade facing Church Street is dedicated to curbside retail. So what you got is a plethora of bars, a coffee house, tchotchke shops, an art gallery, most stores with outdoor cafe seating, all blending in with the vibe and energy of the street party.

Immediately east of the arena neighborhood is the I-4. Even the space underneath the viaduct, normally a gray and bland afterthought when it comes to planning, is nicely laid out, with mosaic tile paving, lush landscaping, street furniture, and snazzy neon lighting along the bridges, and that leads straight into Church Street Station.

The rail station itself has been restored and is awaiting future development as a stop on the planned SunRail commuter rail system. Meantime, the old replica buildings are seeing new life with restaurants, brew pubs, a book store, coffee shops and tourist souvenir shops now occupying the space. Clearly, the thousands of fans who patronize the Amway Center for Magic games, concerts and other events are breathing new life into this great neighborhood which is really put together very well.

So imagine that. Sports fans attending an event and looking for cool places to visit before and after a game. Economic development tied into throngs of arena patrons. Gee what a novel concept!

But please don’t tell that to the Fishers, Tielmans, Esmondes and Goldmans of this world. Don’t tell that to the Marine Drive tenants, extolling the health horrors that await if a ramp is built next to their buildings. Hey this is Buffalo. We aren’t allowed to have nice things. We are only allowed to have a muddy crater, rubble strewn streets surrounded by snow fencing, foundations of whorehouses surrounded by historic plaques, and other lame crap that nobody wants to see.

Nice to see that Orlando gets it. Why don’t we?

  • MDresident

    I find your description of Marine Drive Residents racist, elitist, obnoxious and incorrect. Most of us are hard working people.. Many are Seniors – some who work , others volunteers and others disabled and housebound. Many work multiple jobs to support their families. To compare the third poorest city in the country to Orlando is a bit silly. And you are worse than silly.

  • Dan

    Right – real mature and accurate story. Because what the “obstructionists” want are muddy holes and orange fencing. There is an enormous difference between opening up a new arena or mega project in an area already slammed with development and opening an arena or mega project in an area where there is nothing.

    The basics of a neighborhood must be constructed first. Otherwise all you’ll have is a few hulking structures with dead streetscapes other than an hour before an after an event.

    People need to realize that Canalside is not going to be bustling tomorrow. To do it right, it will take decades. Notice in your writing that the Church Street Station development started back in the 1970s – and in fact was considered a failure by the 1990s when its development proved unsustainable and they had to completely reinvent it. They will have to continually invest 100s of Millions in this development into the future until they realize how to create a true mixed use neighborhood that can generate its own vibrancy without being just a gimmicky attraction drawing visitors from elsewhere.

  • Beltroy

    I think the author of this article means to; why the hell haven’t we done anything with our waterfront yet? Who is standing in the way? You answer the question Mr. Waterfront Resident. There is nothing wrong with the ideas in this article, nothing has happened, someone is to blame, who cares, lets just make it happen.

  • Lou Battaglia

    I’ve been to this area quite a few times as my father lives there. While nothing is inaccurate in this story, it should be mentioned that there is a ton of empty commercial and residential space surrounding the area. Boy Band manager and ponzi schemer Lou Pearlman built a ton of luxery condos right down the street from where the arena is now. They never sold and were auctioned off at a fraction of the price just recently. My point being that the development story of this area of Orlando has not all been positive. In the rush to re-develop, Orlando did get burned along the way.

    And I have to be honest. Orlando kinda sucks. It is culturally vapid. I went to a Magic game earlier this year, and yeah, that strip was jumping. But it was like a big Chippewa. But whatever….it doesn’t matter.

  • Peter A Reese

    Yeah, we really needed Bass Pro to build our future. Pay no attention to the fact that Gander Mountain is laying off employees right now. So much for the big box sporting goods store market in Buffalo. And please spare us the tourist destination crap. Bubba don’t travel miles away to buy his fishing lures. Yes sir, the waterfront would really look great with a huge, empty eye sore built with taxpaer money. We could rename it QiunnLand.

  • TImmy Schwartz

    Your writer is spot on. If there are to be attractions on the waterfront, visitors will need a place to park, and right now there are few options near that central green area on the river, and fewer yet should buildings actually be put up on that lots in front of the arena.

    That piece of land between the projects and where the aud used to be would be the perfect spot for a parking ramp. Put in main floor retail shops such as in this article would add so much. The writer is correct – in Buffalo we just don’t get it.

  • OutwithQuinn

    I, too, find the author’s tone both obnoxious and finger-pointing. Either way, not helpful. Fact is, Orlando sucks-it has no personality; it does not have 1/100th of Buffalo’s character and texture.

    Clearly, we all want progress on the waterfront. Unfortunately for Quinn, a silver bullet/loss leader model did not work. So, let’s try something new, as proposed by Goldman et al. There is something to be said for a plan that develops organically…..and from the wishes of the people who actually use the site.

    The previous plan achieved neither of these objectives.

  • Preserveourheritage

    Here’s the scoop on Kulyk – he injects his snark and sarcasm on posts all over the internet, ripping into the people who are actually trying to do some good for WNY. Quinn probably has him on retainer as a PR guy the way he shills for him all over. Him and his buddy go to all these stadiums, probably drink like fiends, and just because they like to suck beer and eat wings and hit on chicks in orange hotpants at Hooters, they think the entire world wants to build one of these abominations on Main Street at Canal Side, and sully the important historic legacy of that land.

    Talk to sports fans they can hop in their cars or take the train to Chippewa or Anchor bar and there is no shortage of places to eat food and drink and listen to music. But where else in this city could a jersey wearing visitor go to see the history of the Erie Canal come alive? Given the chance I am sure that hockey people would jump at the chance to go next door and spend time with their kids at a historical visitors center rather than some stupid imax theatre or a sports bar.

    Don’t be too hard on Kulyk though, he has a tough life and job he actually has to defend the record of Barbara Miller Williams as one of her confidential staffers. Can anyone name a worse politician in WNY she is the bottom of the barrel lol.

    God Bless and long live Tim Tielman he should be Mayor.

  • Lloyd Marshall Jr.

    Don’t slam Orlando, Atlanta, Baltimore, or other more progressive locales for putting things together that attract visitors and that put more into their local coffers.

    Sure, you have Chippewa Street in Buffalo, but that’s separated from the HSBC Arena by the 190, the Amtrak line, and a few other blocks of virtually lifeless activity(even the Buffalo News offices). These other places have shops and such just steps away from their sporting venues.

    But hey, we here in the Commonwealth of Niagara have Carl Paladino as Governor(Greg Edwards, Lt-Governor). Paladino is a developer; he’d know how to put things together in ways that wouldn’t burden the taxpayer, and that actually would make people WANT to come here!

    Governor Carl! Get some knowledgeable people who have a clue(Larry Quinn isn’t one of them), and let’s see some ideas. Thanks!

  • Peter Farrell

    More stuff that wasn’t mentioned in this article. Again, list this under – Buffalo – FAIL. Orlando – WIN, file.

    Just a block or so up the I-4 from the Amway Center sits the old Amway Arena, the original home of the Magic. Remember how it took thirteen years to finally figure out what to do with the Aud here in Buffalo, and then follow through on its demolition? Remember how plenty of salvagable artifacts from the Aud were hauled off to the landfill thanks to the building’s decay and flat out incompetence of our local officials to properly maintain one of Buffalo’s most cherished landmarks over the years?

    Well, the old Amway Arena will not suffer the same sad fate as its Buffalo counterpart. It will not linger as a white elephant for over a decade, the venue and its contents will not fall victim to abandonment, neglect, and decay as was done to embarrassing levels here. The building is already slated for demolition by the end of 2011 and in its place will be a residential/retail/business complex. And just days ago an auction was held in which items galore from the old arena were sold off. Just six months after the Magic played their final game in that building.

    Amazing what a community can do when its not held back by governmental incompetence and small minded obstructionists. Have a nice day.


  • Sarah

    Doesn’t anybody edit this crap before it is published?

    “But please don’t tell that to the Fishers, Tielmans, Esmondes and Goldmans of this world. Don’t tell that to the Marine Drive tenants, extolling the health horrors that await if a ramp is built next to their buildings. Hey this is Buffalo. We aren’t allowed to have nice things. We are only allowed to have a muddy crater, rubble strewn streets surrounded by snow fencing, foundations of whorehouses surrounded by historic plaques, and other lame crap that nobody wants to see.”