7/06/2006

The Suburbanization of Michigan Avenue

Last Fall I began a series on various developments along Michigan Avenue, the backbone of the City's near East Side and just a stone's throw away from Midtown. For readers who are new to FixBuffalo or would just like to see what's happening along Michigan Avenue here's October, December and January's posts and pics.

I had no idea that Michigan Avenue was going to end up looking like some non-descript architectural collage on Maple Road or Sheridan Drive. Here's the proof! Complete with faux Ionic columns at the grand corner entrance and vinyl siding in two colors...
DSCN3563

Scroll down through October's post to see the first phase of construction. And yes the building, located at the corner of North Street and Michigan, is set back a full 100' providing ample parking. This project is part of the Mayor's Liveable Communities Initiative, at least according to this sign. Here's a pic showing just how nice the parking lot is. Byron, is this part of Tony's legacy or yours?

Anybody know how to stop this sort of backsliding development before it starts? Sort of fits this project over on Jefferson Avenue.

Jefferson Avenue & Riley The image “http://citycomfortsblog.typepad.com/cities/urb-anim-illo/urb-to-sub-3.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
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15 comments:

R. Pierce said...

why was this building build with such a large setback from the corner of Michigan and North - This project had the potential to define that corner - too bad urban design only applies to more well off neighborhoods

WestCoastPerspective said...

RP is right. Design Review- it is needed throughout the City, not just along Michigan. These applications are processed by the City's Planning Department- they should be nudging developers (profit or non-profit) towards better site design. It was also approved by the Planning Board after a PUBLIC HEARING. My bet is the public wasn't there to be heard. :-/

Rodney said...

I completely understand the idea of urban design reviews, but the fact is, this post bickers over the location of a parking lot. This structure brings some much needed revitalization to the Michigan/North neighborhood, whether it is classified as "suburbanization" or not.

Instead of criticizing the design of this development and nit-picking over the parking lot, might a bit of praise help to further publicize the redevelopment of this location?

I think that your efforts to chronicle the progress of this development over the past few months were great; however, for someone who has been following this since October to then ask "Anybody know how to stop this sort of backsliding development before it starts?" once it has been completed is completely mind-boggling.

Also, instead of including an obvious unseen question directed to "Tony" and "Byron," a little research would have helped to add value to this post. Information regarding Mayor Brown's Livable Communities Initiative can be found at the link below.

http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/Leadership/City_Departments/Citizens_Services/MayorByronW_Brown_sLivableCommunitiesInitiative

gabe said...

You've gotta be effin' kidding me!

Where the hell was Wanamanker and the other planners on this?

I don't understand what is so damn difficult about sticking the parking lot BEHIND the building, AWAY from the primary roadway.

It seems downright ridiculous to be designing new buildings utterly, completely around cars in a part of the city that has a much lower rate of car owership then better off areas.

If I were mayor, the entire planning department would be fired for allowing this drek to pass.

FarMcKon said...

(Un)Fortunately, there are no laws about Ugly in most city codes. It's crystal clear that front-side parking lots make poor pedestrian zones, I don't know enough about Buffalo to know if this area is right on.

What I do know is that Metro Buffalo has more housing than people, and is still losing population (Rochester suffers from the same problem). That says to me is each time a new 'housing development' happens, that just means some other corner of the ciy is getting abandoned.

It's like pushing bubbles around in a Zip-Lock bag. It's higher profit for a developer to build new than to refit or repair. But is that strategy good for the city?

-FarMcKon (RocWriters.com)

fix buffalo said...

Rodney,

It's not "nit-picking". This sort of "suburban" design is a major problem for city dwellers. Rather than getting all excited about something new, we should hold our elected officials and annointed City Planners to a high standard.

Others are right to point out about the fallacy of new builds when older houses can be rehabbed for a fraction of the cost.

The link you sent doesn't refer to this project.

Anyone know where the financing came from? Qualifications to live here? Is it another BMHA project on the down-low?

WestCoastPerspective said...

I believe this is the Cornerstone project? It provides temporary housing for (homeless) women and children. Money came from the State Dept. of Housing, local churches, and the sale of their present building on Ellicott (built maybe 10 years ago) to the Medical Campus developers. It is affiliated with the City Mission.

thestip said...

Gabe, its not the planning departments fault. They have a total of "3" Community Planners, that's right, "3"!! They all have to cover a third of the city and trust me that definitely burns them out. They have to help finish the GNPA plans, which in some areas means writing most of the plans themselves due to lack of community interest. Then whenever a new development comes to pass in one of their districts if they have time they can look into those, but, they don't have final say on anything. The real problems lie in how Tony gutted the planning department when he took over the city long ago. Many of the positions were filled with patronage hires and subsequently little planning went on. I am working to make this known to the Brown administration, I have an inside source, the only problem then is the Control Board. But I would think that they could understand the wisdom of hiring planners, more planners should yeild yield more and better developments which would yield more taxable properties for the city. By the way where did you learn what drek means?

gabe said...

Stip, I stand somewhat corrected on the planning department. I know they must be overworked but I would think a large building like this would at least get their attention.

Drek...a nice (not so) colorful german + yiddish word. Frequently used around the house when I was growing up. Love it.

fix buffalo said...

gabe...

the incidence of car ownership on the East Side has nothing to do with good urban design. Parts of Manhattan have lower rates of car ownership and manage to maintain better urban design.

The obvious question is why does bad design - Tops of Jefferson, Merriweather Library, Jefferson Marketplace, this homeless shelter - get a free pass while the Lexington Coop gets scrutinized to kingdom come. People here in marginalized neighborhoods (BMHA right across street) are so conditioned to accept new things with bad design, just because they are new. I would argue this condition is analagous to the abused spouse who is some how thankful that he/she has not been beat-up (yet) today.

Said otherwise, do we live in one City or two?

FarMcKon said...

Can someone fill me in on what happned to the Lexington Coop? Planning madness or something?

thestip said...

Off Topic:

Ah, because it Serbian drek means the same thing and I never knew it was used in other languages other than maybe Russian... Great word though, it was used on Family Guy and I almost fell out of my chair!

fix buffalo said...

off topic? no...today is the 150 anniversary of a famous Serb's birth, Tesla...who shed lots of light on Buffalo once upon a time.

I thought it was "Dreck" which was used by moi long time ago meaning - crap. And if Gabe would ask his downstate jewish grandparents what the difference is between "Dreck" and Kitsch, I'd be happy...

gabe said...

David,
Manhattan has much lower rates of car ownership because it's managed to maintain an ultra-dense built-environment made for people, not cars. Not to mention the fact that the city has a public transportation system unmatched by anyhere else in the US. It's only logical that new development in NYC typically fits this mold.

Greater Buffalo is dominated by a very strong car culture and associated lack of walkable urban amenities. All the flight and abandonment has sucked so much population and subsequent density out of the city. The neighborhoods you excellently documnt have lost so much of this density,that in the eyes of many, it's difficult to jutify development geared toward pedestrian-oriented buildings because of the lack of this density. This could be construed as a chicken/egg argument, but the prevailing situation is the same, nonetheless.

And about all this "off-topic" dreck...

If only my East Side-raised (yes, Buffalo) grandfather was still alive...

That's ok though, my 91 year old grandmother is still alive and well, only 3 blocks away, up here in sunny North Buffalo. She's still very fluent in Stuttgart-accented High German..bet she can help out with the etymology situation here.

Stip, I would venture that the serbs borrowed the word from the Austro-Hungarian overlords that ruled over them (more like playing tug-o-war with the Ottoman Empire) for a few centuries. Europe has always been so tighly packed with a diverse collection of cultures that most languages are loaded with loanwords from different tongues.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry, but i think setting the building back as far as it is was the common-sense thing to do...unless, that is, this building was constructed for commercial (versus residential) purposes. Think about it. If you lived here would YOU want your window and door to be close(r) to the busy intersect, or further back (as it is)? As is, the parking lot serves as a buffer between the occupants and the general public (vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic flow). It also renders the site navigable for public safety access (police, fire, ambulance, etc).