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Connecting the dots between Hofbrauhaus and Canalside

Guest submission by Chris Ostrander

It’s been a long time since this much news has come out about Canalside in such a short period of time. Aside from one small announcement that ECHDC will be waiting to develop the north portion of the Aud Block it’s been all great news for the epicenter of Buffalo’s waterfront development.

Recent news included a report that Pizza Plant will be occupying the ground floor retail space in One Canalside and adding another food and entertainment option to the area around Canalside and the arena. The best part of that news is that there’s potential to see Pizza Plant open and operating right around the same time that HARBORCENTER and (716) open their doors.

The building on the right will be bringing a beer garden to Canalside within the next year and it might just be the home of the previously announced Hofbrauhaus.

The building on the right will be bringing a beer garden to Canalside within the next year and it might just be the home of the previously announced Hofbrauhaus.

Another report indicated that Pizza Plant and (716) will have company along Washington Street as Benderson has begun to work on developing a yet to be unnamed beer garden for the South Block. The Buffalo News report says the beer garden is at least a year away, which would probably slate it for a late-2015 opening.

What’s interesting is that Benderson and the ECHDC are being somewhat secretive other than indicating that the project will be built on the South Block parcel located along Scott Street immediately south of the East Canal Park. The parcel was previously slated to provide for up to 14,000 square feet of retail space with 65 residences on the upper floors of a three to four story building (the building on the right hand side of the entry image).

The lack of specific details on the building slated for the South Block has led me to connect the dots with another upcoming Buffalo beer garden project that received quite a bit of press in May. Kevin Townsell owns the franchise rights for the Hofbrauhaus franchise in the region and is planning on opening a Hofbrauhaus beer garden within the next year or so.

Townsell held back on a few details on his project, specifically the exact location. However, he did indicate it will be downtown and within walking distance to Canalside. The project will include seating for 600 inside and a patio that will seat 300 more.

There are more than a few indicators that connect these two projects together but none more telling than the plan for the restaurant is 14,000 square feet. Add in that Townsell said the site will be within walking distance of Canalside, he’s been working on the plans for over two years (roughly the time it took to finalize One Canalside and the East Canal) and the similar timelines that Townsell and ECHDC have mentioned. To recap the connections:

-The original plan for the South Block called for a building with 14,000 square feet of retail an previous reports on Hofbrauhaus indicate that the restaurant will occupy 14,000 square feet

-Townsell has indicated that the location will be “within walking distance of Canalside” but hasn’t tipped his hand further

-Benderson has been equally coy about the plans for the recently announced beer garden

-There have been no other rumors of a beer garden outside of Townsell’s Hofbrauhaus project

-Both Townsell and Benderson have indicated similar timelines for their respective projects

My lone worry about this project is the overall density it will bring. Previous renderings and plans have called for a building that is at least two stories in height, if not taller. It would be a shame if the building was downgraded to only one story (as many of the Hofbrauhaus beer gardens are) and wound up falling outside of the Canalside design standards. This building needs to stay within the design standards for Canalside and needs to provide some vertical density along with filling in a key parcel on what is going to be a very busy corner.

Seeing the progress made with the Aud Block bridges and the plans for Explore-N-More and the additional buildings on the South Aud Block coming together has been an awesome sign for this district. However, the willingness of two private entities to put their businesses in the heart of the district shows the potential for the development parcels to begin to fill in.

Hofbrauhaus (if it is slated for the South Block) and Pizza Plant joins the rapidly rising HARBORCENTER project as private investments in what has been a slow moving public project. Clearly the momentum has finally built to the point that Canalside is ready for private investment.

It’s been a long time coming but signs point to late 2015 or perhaps mid-summer of 2016 being a serious coming out party for Canalside and Buffalo’s waterfront.

Chris Ostrander opines on Buffalo Sabres hockey and Buffalo development via his blog, Two In The Box.
Follow Chris on Twitter @2ITB_Buffalo


ECHDC can maintain positive momentum with some smaller projects

Guest Submission by Chris Ostrander

Since the first announcement and rendering of Canalside was released in what seems like 2004, it’s been something I’ve been passionate about following. I’ve experienced the waterfront in Baltimore, Vancouver, Pittsburgh and many other cities and I’m eagerly awaiting the day that Buffalo’s impressive project is finally complete for the world to enjoy.

Getting to that complete point has taken a bit longer than expected. Much longer than expected, actually. A myriad of issues and hurdles that include, but aren’t limited to obstructionists, contractor issues, hold ups in Albany, obstructionists again and even poor leadership at times. It would appear that the ECDHC has finally gotten things on the right track although we’re still waiting to see the train pick up some speed.

With the first Whipple Truss bridge in on the Aud Block site and the accompanying Swartz bridges should be in late in the fall. Additionally, reports indicate that the bids for the trio of buildings on the southern portion of the Aud Block will be out this summer and those buildings will be ready to open in mid-2016.Canalside-petition-rendering-12-19-111

All of that is tremendous news. While the timeline on the first three buildings on the Aud Block – and really in all of proper Canalside parcels – is lamentable, real progress will be seen in the coming months. When you consider how stagnant any real development has been at Canalside, this is a terrific sign.

However, ECHDC president Tom Dee also managed to slip in a statement that development on the North Aud Block will be taking a downshift for the time being. From The Buffalo News:

“Two buildings and a parking ramp planned for the north block are now on hold, Dee said, while they wait to see how the various developments emerge.

Restaurateurs and retailers have expressed interest, Dee said, but they’re waiting for the buildings to go up before making a commitment. He said he has directed them to HarborCenter and to Benderson Development, whose timetables are ahead of the canal site, because it will only add to the synergy of the whole area, he said.”

To his credit, it’s good to hear that a parking garage isn’t part of the immediate plans for any Canalside parcel. There are far too many options in the immediate area for there to be any excuse for including a ramp in future developments. What’s unfortunate is to hear that future development on more physical buildings at Canalside are on hold yet again. All of the parcels around the Central Wharf were sold to the public with dense, bustling streets. They’re still grassy lots at this time. Now the majority of the Aud Block will join those parcels and that of the parcel just south of the East Canal in development limbo.

The issue here is that this type of statement is simply more of the same from ECHDC. Hopefully the opening of HARBORCENTER and the initiation of construction on the South Aud Block buildings will spur interest in the area. While I think ECHDC would be wise to at least take the steps to get the building for the Public Market constructed (once the canals are complete) there are other, smaller steps they can take to keep the positive momentum at Canalside going.

Improve the signage: So much of what works at Canalside is the welcoming atmosphere the area has. However, there is a temporary feel to so much of what is down there at this time. Even the signage that dots the area gives off that vibe. Particularly the main Canalside construction sign is an eyesore in almost every sense of the word.

Would it be so hard to get a three-dimensional, backlit version of the Canalside logo on that particular corner? Move the political backpatting construction sign to the corner of the Aud Block and install an attractive, dynamic version of the Canalside logo to serve as a proper front door to the neighborhood. Furthermore, there has to be a way to get the ugly DOT street signs converted to a more appealing design that falls in with the Canal-era atmosphere that ECHDC is fostering. These are two very easy steps that could be carried out in less than a calendar year if done properly.

Construct a second “comfort station”: Of the three buildings set to be constructed on the South Aud Block, one is being referred to as a comfort station that will likely house restrooms and perhaps refreshments. While the 5,000 square foot building would be ideal for a fast casual, grab-and-go restaurant, it will be a nice addition to that portion of the development. What doesn’t make sense is why there isn’t another one of those built at the other end of Prime Street?

Clinton’s Dish is a very nice little eatery and the new tables and seating area look awesome. Bravo to the folks who carried that out. However, the bathrooms down there are still just port-a-pottys and temporary trailer hitch lavatories. Why not incorporate a proper bathroom facility into the Clinton’s Dish building? Without getting too complicated, why not remove the wooden shed Clinton’s Dish currently occupies and replace it with a proper Canal-era spec building that would house the restaurant, the new beer garden and bathroom facilities?

Keep the stage in it’s new home: Some bad timing led to a torrential downpour during a Thursday Night Concert and the lawn near the stage was trashed. The stage was moved next to Clinton’s Dish and the sod has since been replaced. The new stage location is vastly improved over the previous, which is turning out to be the silver lining from that rainstorm. Buffalo Place and the ECHDC have to keep the stage where it is for the rest of the summer and beyond. The sight lines are better and the crowd appears to flow in and fill the space much better as well.

While a permanent venue is badly needed, this change makes too much sense not to continue on with until an actual concert venue is constructed.

Re-Skin the Marine Drive Apartments: Okay, so this isn’t exactly a quick fix but I can’t think of many other buildings in need of a facelift that happen to sit in a prime development area on the doorstep of the city’s greatest asset. Perhaps I cherry picked my descriptor, but you can’t deny that the hulking towers could use some sprucing up.

What works for these buildings is that there’s nothing else wrong with them. While they aren’t the most visually appealing buildings in the city, they aren’t falling apart, which plays in everyone’s favor. I don’t even know what the ballpark cost of such a project would be, but simply giving them a more appealing look to outsiders would immediately quell any sort of negative stigma cast upon them by visitors to the city or waterfront.

That final idea clearly doesn’t qualify as small. Nor would it be quick to carry out. All of these projects cost money, which is never easy to come by for a public project like this. However, as Canalside is set to enter a phase in development that should bring about a glut of new construction projects, ECHDC can keep the small touches on pace while also providing more benchmarks for those who are eagerly awaiting a finished product on the water.

Chris Ostrander opines on Buffalo Sabres hockey and Buffalo development via his blog, Two In The Box.
Follow Chris on Twitter @2ITB_Buffalo


Bisons update – what a week at Coca Cola Field

Bisons
It’s a shame that the weather has been so unsettled and so cold that more people didn’t experience the recent home stand at Coca Cola Field.

The Buffalo Bisons hit the road tomorrow for eight games, and they will be flying out of Buffalo on cloud nine, after going 7-1 on the just finished home stand against the Louisville Bats and the Charlotte Knights. The team toyed with a no-hitter thanks to the fabulous pitching of Marcus Stroman, got solid pitching from the rest of the rotation, clutch hitting from several hot bats in the Bisons lineup, including outfielder Kevin Pillar, and veritable eye candy of defensive plays, including four gems just this afternoon from newly demoted seconded baseman Ryan Goins.

“Winning is infectious, when things are going well it feeds on itself,” said Manager Gary Allenson. He has had to deal with several roster moves during the week, and Stroman was called to Toronto on Saturday night to help fill a depleted and struggling bullpen with the big club.

Stroman’s performance on Tuesday night was nothing short of amazing. He struck out 10 batters through 6 innings, and at one point retired 16 straight batters. When he left the mound after the 6th, he was still looking strong out there, and visions of a possible no hitter, which has only occurred once at the downtown ballpark (Bartolo Colon, 1997), were being thought about. Sadly, Stroman never got the chance. He was lifted by manager Allenson, most likely due to pitch count concerns and his imminent promotion to Toronto which had to limit his performance.

On Saturday, it was Kevin Pillar doing the heroics. The Bisons won in come from behind fashion, 6-5, with a walk off triple with no outs in the bottom of the 9th plating two runs. “Who doesn’t like to win in that fashion?” said a beaming Pillar, who was mobbed by his teammates after the game winning hit. “I never even considered the bunt sign,” said Allenson, who had runners at first and second an no outs. “I told Pillar, go out there and be a hero.” And after fouling off several pitches, Pillar did just that, launching a towering ball to right center field which split the defenders.

It was more of the same on Sunday. Buffalo and Charlotte were tied at 3 in the 8th inning. Darin Mastroianni and Ryan Goins did back to back singles which each drove in the go ahead two runs. Bobby Korecky pitched perfect 9th, and just like that, the Bisons had themselves their first sweep of Charlotte at home since 2004.

“What was it, 28 degrees out there?” quipped Allenson as he remarked about the unusually cold weather. “I think it’s going to be 87 in Gwinnett tomorrow.”

Good weather and warm temperatures might be a good tonic for The Herd as they travel to Gwinnett, Georgia and then the new ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the way they played this past week, right now they look unstoppable. They are in first place in the International League North Division.

HOMESTAND SUMMARY

April 2014
26 vs. Louisville, W 6-2 (WP: S. Nolin; LP: T. Crabbe; SV: B. Korecky)
27 vs. Louisville, L 1-2 (WP: C. Wang; LP: G. Infante; SV: J. Diaz)
28 vs. Louisville, W 17-5 (WP: K. Drabek; LP: C. Reineke)
29 vs. Louisville, W 4-1 (WP: M. Stroman; LP: J. Francis; SV: N. Wagner)

May 2014
1 vs. Charlotte, W 6-1 (WP: L. Hendriks; LP: T. Hanson)
2 vs. Charlotte, W 1-0 (WP: A. Bibens-Dirkx; LP: D. Veal)
3 vs. Charlotte, W 6-5 (WP: R. Tepera; LP: D. Purcey)
4 vs. Charlotte, W 5-3 (WP: J. Stilson; LP: M. Boggs; SV: B. Korecky)


HarborCenter update – racing to completion

hc0854
Things are really chugging along at HarborCenter, as about 200 men and women, working on two shifts and six days a week, race along to get HarborCenter open in time for hockey season. With the weather finally breaking into full spring mode, construction work is really bustling at the foot of Main Street, and today HarborCenter officials Cliff Benson and John Koelmel, along with construction supervisor Ryan Poropat from Mortenson Construction, took members of the media on a hardhat tour to update the progress on the facility.

hc0846aHere are some rapid fire updates, and things you might want to know:

-The overall construction progress is now at 60-65% of the entire project. They are on target for a late September opening.

-Work is now progressing on the floor of both rinks, as well as the seating bowl of the feature rink. Work is progressing offsite abut two blocks away on assembling the trusses that will form the roof the main rink. Work has also begun on the exterior brick facade along Washington Street.

-The south crane (nearest to the First Niagara Center) is scheduled to be disassembled and removed on June 19. The north crane will be in place for several more months, as work continues on the hotel tower.

-There will be an enclosed pedestrian skybridge connecting the second level of the parking ramp to the main level of First Niagara Center, which is the second floor of the arena’s pavilion. Patrons will be able to park in the ramp, walk across to the arena, and have their tickets scanned without having to go outside.

-While there will be no escalators to ferry visitors to the 6th floor rinks, there will be 12 elevators for public use, as well as stairs and ramps.

-Perry Street, which has been closed to vehicular traffic between Main Street and Washington Street since construction began, will not be reopened until the center officially opens in fall. At this time, Both Washington Street and Main Street surrounding the structure are completely closed off as well, as masonry work on the facade goes into full installation mode.

Of additional interest is the retail space which will front along Main Street. It has already been announced that the 716 sports bistro will be set up at the Washington and Scott street corner, with the new “destination” Tim Hortons going on Main and Scott. HarborCenter will also be leasing about approximately 4500 square feet of space along the street. “Enough for two stores” says HarborCenter President John Koelmel. Development Officer Cliff Benson reported, “We’ve had huge interest in the space, probably we’d be able to lease 45,000 square feet if we had it. We are just now going to work on what we want to put in there. The many inquiries speaks to the excitement and the demand here in the district. We want to make sure we have the right type of tenants, that will fit into the theme of the building, and businesses that are sure to be successful.” Koelmel added that there will be further announcements soon, and that they expect to have the retail space fully leased and occupied by years end.

HarborCenter is slated to open in October, 2014, with the 200 room Marriott Hotel then set to open in May of 2015.

The space for the 716 Sports Bistro is beginning to take shape

The space for the 716 Sports Bistro is beginning to take shape

Here is the skybridge connecting the HarborCenter ramp to the First Niagara Center pavilion

Here is the skybridge connecting the HarborCenter ramp to the First Niagara Center pavilion

The seating bowl of Rink 1, the feature rink which will have a capacity of 1800 seats

The seating bowl of Rink 1, the feature rink which will have a capacity of 1800 seats

And across the street, work is stirring on the historically aligned canals on the Aud Block

And across the street, work is stirring on the historically aligned canals on the Aud Block

Masonry work has begun on the Washington Street side of the building

Masonry work has begun on the Washington Street side of the building


Elmira Jackals sign on as Sabres affiliate

jackalsFans in south central part of New York State have endured their own version of “suffering”, as their Elmira Jackals of the East Coast Hockey League have fallen to the bottom of their league standings this year, just two years removed from being at the top of the ECHL under their then Craig Rivet led squad.

Today the Buffalo Sabres announced that they have signed an affiliation agreement with Elmira as their lower level minor league affiliate. The Jackals, who began play in 2000 in the United Hockey League before moving to the ECHL, play at the 4000 seat First Arena in downtown Elmira. The venue is located approximately 140 miles from Buffalo, and with this move, all Sabres prospects will be housed within easy driving distance.

In a press release issued by the Sabres, team General Manager Tim Murray stated, “Proper development is essential in maintaining a competitive roster at the NHL level. Having Elmira as an additional source to develop our young talent will certainly help our entire organization going forward. We’re proud to have the Jackals as part of our organization and, with the Amerks in Rochester, we now have the added bonus of working with minor-league affiliates that are no further than 150 miles from Buffalo.”

For the Sabres, additional marketing synergies can certainly be found in Elmira, where they passionately embrace the sport of hockey, not only via the Jackals, but also the NCAA Division III Elmira College Soaring Eagles hockey program. The Jackals have changed ownership just recently, and Buffalo is the closest NHL team geographically to the “Twin Tiers” area of Corning and Elmira. On any given night at a Jackals game, abundant Sabres jerseys can be easily spotted, sprinkled throughout the stands at First Arena.

The East Coast Hockey League is the premier “AA” minor league of hockey with many affiliation agreements with parent NHL teams. With the Sabres presence in both Rochester and now Elmira, this news bodes well for the organization and their fans throughout upstate New York.


Bisons split with PawSox, Francisco new secret weapon

franciscoYesterday at Coca Cola Field, the Buffalo Bisons had just tied the game at five with the Pawtucket Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th. There were runners on second and third with two outs, and Bisons’ first baseman Juan Francisco was stepping to the plate.

So what did the PawSox do? They intentionally walked Francisco. The gambit worked, the PawSox got out of the inning, and would eventually win the game 7-5 in 12 innings to earn the split of the four game series.

So who exactly is Juan Francisco?

Just some guy the Blue Jays picked up off the waiver wire. The Jays claimed him on April 1, after Spring Training had broken up, and assigned him to the Buffalo Bisons. Francisco has been a terror since coming to the club, and although it’s very early, so far he has posted a .406 batting average with two home runs. On Friday night at the ballpark, he came up a home run short of batting for the cycle.

Any comparisons to Jim Negrych? Last year’s second base phenm maintained a batting average well over .400 throughout more than half of the season before slowing down in the dog days of summer.

Manager Gary Allenson was clearly agitated following yesterday’s loss, looking at the PawSox series and realizing that his team most likely could have swept all four games. Thursday’s outing was tough; the team played a doubleheader the night before in Lehigh Valley, one of the two games went extra innings, and finishing right around midnight, then had to endure a seven hour bus ride home throughout the night. After Sunday’s game, Allenson groused “I looked up at the scoreboard in the 11th inning, and I saw only three base hits. We didn’t make good adjustments with the bats today.”

The Bisons now move on for four games against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, affiliate of the New York Yankees. Tonight’s “Markdown Monday” should be played in summer like conditions, with a front moving through that will chill things significantly for Tuesday night. It’s a 6:05pm start time Monday through Wednesday, with a 1:05pm matinee to end the home stand on Thursday.


Watching the big boys in Buffalo – J.A. Happ

ja_happ.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxGetting the opportunity to get a glimpse of the major league players play for the minor league team as part of an injury rehabilitation can be an extra special treat when going to Buffalo Bisons games. Unfortunately, only about 200 hardy fans were in the stands on a blustery and windy night in downtown Buffalo tonight to see Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ in a Bisons uniform.

Happ has gone through two injury stints over the past 12 months. This one is trying to comeback from back spasms which has forced him down to Buffalo to get back in the groove. Playing against the Pawtucket Red Sox, he threw 90 pitches, allowing one run and getting six strikeouts. He got the no decision in what eventually turned out to be a 7-4 loss by the Bisons.

“He’s in his second year of pro ball,” said Manager Gary Allenson tonight. “He’s got really good stuff. I’d be the kind of guy to keep on him, just to keep him focused.”

Happ met with the media after his stint was done, and while the game itself was still unfolding on the field. He had one previous start, at the single A level, and it is uncertain when he might pitch again. “I feel I’ve ready to take it to the next step and try to get the big league hitters out,” Happ said. Happ refused to comment when asked if he would be comfortable taking an assignment in the bullpen once he returns to Toronto, insisting that he has been focused on being in the starting rotation.

The Bisons continue their homestand against Pawtucket throughout the weekend, with the first Fridaynightbash set for a 6:05 PM start on Friday, then 1:05pm starts both on Saturday and Sunday.


Bisons baseball – we are underway

Filed under: Sports

IMG_0703

New Buffalo Bisons manager Gary Allenson walked into the media room, which is always crowded on Opening Day with a large press contingent, excused his way through the cameramen and the writers, took center stage, and quipped, “What is this, New York?”

Allenson seems to be one of those down to earth, no nonsense type of coaches that Buffalo fans absolutely love. Fast release with the stories and takes, a bit of self deprecating humor, and a fire in the belly attitude when it comes to winning.

He had plenty to be happy about today, as Buffalo Bisons won their season opener, 6-3, over Thurway rivals Rochester Red Wings. 11,042 fans braved the chilly temperatures to take part in the 27th opener at the downtown ballpark. Today’s win marked the 17th time in those 27 opener that the Bisons have emerged as winners.
Anthony Gose, who has had major playing time with the parent Toronto Bloue Jays, went 2 for 4 at the plate in the leadoff spot. Two Bisons who were with the team during the Mets era, Mike Nickeas and Matt Tuiasosopo, contributed nightly towards the win. The Bisons did most of their damage early, plating four runs in the bottom of the first inning, doing all the scoring with two outs.

“It’s nice to get the win, I don’t care how you get it,” said Allenson. “You know my wife bought me a new pair of cabela under armours and they were sweet today. I wasn’t cold.” (No endorsement deal with that apparel manufacturer)
Neil Wagner, who played effectively in the closing role for the Herd last season, was lights out in the 9th, retiring all three batters to notch his first save.
Buffalo and Rochester go at it again Friday at 2PM, weather permitting, before hitting the road this weekend.




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