Canalside & a Sense of Tacky Place
by Alan Bedenko (@BuffaloPundit) - posted 8:14 am, January 10, 2012
Both Chris and I have written extensively over the past several years about what’s going on at the Inner Harbor. (Unfortunately, links will have to wait).
In late 2010, the planning for Canalside was co-opted by a crowdsourcing process that provided all of the ills of central planning with none of the decision-making efficiency. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a facile “placemaking” exercise by uncredentialed huckster Fred Kent of the Partnership for Public Spaces, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation retained consultants to help flesh out the historical/cultural aspects of the Canalside project.
While the district had historically been a wetter, be-bricked version of Mos Eisley, the “history” that will be reproduced at Canalside was always going to be sanitized through contemporary biases. While Chris and I advocated for the notion of giving people things to do and see, we were vilified for our suburban-colored glasses and our cultural, architectural, and artistic ignorance.
We merely traded a political planning elite for a cultural planning elite.
And the cultural elite’s Cultural Masterplan is out & embedded below.
Initially, Canalside will feature a Children’s Museum, which will fill a gaping hole in our city – one that Explore & More temporarily filled by bringing certain exhibits to a tent at Canalside during the temperate months. It was like the #Occupy version of a children’s museum. But another feature is something Mark Goldman personally lobbied for incessantly – a “solar powered carousel”, and an interpretive “how Buffalo fed America” look back at the times before the St. Lawrence Seaway and interstate network.
When it comes to the historical significance of the canal terminus, there’s a fine line between education and nostalgia porn.
Longer term, the plan is in deep Niagara Falls fail territory with a “4D theater production” depicting a balloon ride, which will “immerse visitors in a ‘you are there’ journey, with 4D effects such as falling snow, wind gusts, rumbling seats, scents, surround sound…” The cost of re-making the “MOM” ride at Massachusetts’ Jordan’s Furniture and the 4D rides in the Falls will be $25 million, plus operating costs of about $1.3 – 1.7 million per year.
$25 million to take something that was supposed to be “authentic” and give one a “sense of place” and turn it into sideshow tack and a snack shack. This entire placemaking exercise has been an absolute crock of crowdsourcing nonsense that has let dozens of unelected people with tiny constituencies promote their personal biases and prejudices in the name of the entire community.
They sold us on “authentic”, and “lighter, quicker, cheaper”. We’re getting fake, phony tack. Where’s the sense of place?
A presentation to accompany the report is here:
On a side note, renderings of a summertime and wintertime Aud block at Canalside look quite inviting. Let’s stick to this: