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And quietly… A setback for Canalside

All the recent momentum, the cranes in the air, all the work going on at the Donovan and Aud Blocks, the first prepping of the Webster Block, the plans for the Ohio Street corridor, the first $15-million private investment announcement in the form of a 48 unit residential complex on Ohio. For those of us waiting for “The Waterfront We Deserve” for all our lives, all this seems almost too good to be true.

So what a splash of ice cold water we all received from Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation President Tom Dee yesterday. To their credit, they tried to spin this as good news. The Buffalo News reports that plans have now been changed for the area immediately south of the Donovan building and straddling Scott Street. Those two parcels, labeled “D2” and “D3” in the Canalside MGPP (referred to as “East Canal” and “South Block on the adjoining graphic), were supposed to have included an extension of the canal system currently under construction on the Aud Block, and a building site which was envisioned to included 14,000 square feet of retail space and possibly 65 residential units.

Instead, what we are instead going to see in that space is a reflecting pool, and a pocket park.

“This is going to be a parcel from Washington to get you to Main Street that’s activated with fun things to do. I think it will be a cool, hip place where you will want to get your coffee and read the paper,” Dee said.

Dee also stated that this change comes about after receiving public input demanding more green space.

So, as a close follower of All Things Canalside, I ask… what public input? Were there any community meetings or a hearing on modifying the MGPP as it pertained to parcels D2 and D3? If so where were they staged? And for the life of me, with all the flexible lawns and colorful adirondack chairs down there, is the public really clamoring for more of the same?

Canalside will be a great place and a vibrant place because of the combination of all things working in a frenzied symmetry of excitement – the arena, offices, residential, park land, retail, historical tourism, the water, transportation. Messing up the long negotiated and approved canal plan before it’s even built, and deleting a potentially important development parcel (D2) in favor of strewing around some grass seed and calling it a day…not a good way to go.

It would be great if the media asked the tough questions of Mr. Dee as to how the thought process and planning process evolved which led to this change. In the scheme of things, it may be just a small thing, but in the larger picture, yet another valuable piece of Inner Harbor real estate gets relegated to Fred Kent’s vision of triangulation.

  • I think it’s a great idea whether there was much public input or not–park vs. retail space–c’mon it’s a non-brainer……………

  • Carey1518

    Do you know what “a lack of public input” is?
    A lack of a strong sale on a good project. Keep up the public input and we might just end up with a lake front community garden.

  • starrrbuck

    Probably the “14,000 square feet of retail space” was far fetched all along.  So whether they’re changing course because they really think the public prefers open space there, or if they’ve just realized the retailer demand is unlikely and don’t want to admit it – it’s the same result in the end.  If conditions eventually change and retailer demand ever seems likely, they could always decide to build over the park space at that point.

    For the other parcel, what will be the real difference between a reflecting pool and the faux canal?  Does it just mean the little boat things won’t be available in water east of Main St?

  • Spread some grass seed around, run the sewer pipes, lay the utilities, zone the land, disband the ECHDC, and put the land up for lease. All done.

  • Booo, we need more canals. Where are all the drunks going to piss after their 8th beers during those raucous harbor shows?