Role Reversal...

In today's Buffalo News, Cynthia Van Ness has a piece about the Erie Canal site, Bass Pro and Florida residents Bob and Mindy Rich.

It was 2000, and in a breath of fresh air befitting the new century in a city long suffering from a stale, crony- based political culture, the Preservation Coalition of Erie County led a passionate grass-roots campaign to develop a historically sensitive Erie Canal district that honored the archaeological remains of a site known the world over.

Our vision seized the imaginations of 15,000 Buffalonians who signed petitions calling for restoring the Commercial Slip and unearthing the original street network of Buffalo’s birthplace.

Out of this participatory process, a consensus plan emerged with design - read the rest...
MJ recently flew over the site and submitted this picture.
Erie Canal Harbor - April 2007
And the good folks at Flynn Battaglia have provided a sketch of their work.
Final Site Plan Nov 2006
Seems like the waterfront is a rather large place. Plenty of room for Bass Pro, just not here! Gotta agree with Cynthia on this...
But in this case we bow our heads to Larry Quinn, Bob and Mindy Rich and everyone who gave away our place in history to Benderson and Bass Pro. In the “obstructionism” game, they make us look like rank amateurs.
Remember this? Too funny!
ArtspaceBAVPATour d'Neglect - 2007Woodlawn Row Housesfaqmy flickr
the creativity exchangeCEOs for Cities


Anonymous said...

c'mon.. what exactly was "given" away? what is wrong with having an anchor that actualy promotes the use of the waterfront? there are legitimate issues with this project - unfortunately, you have yet to utter them.

the use of the "floating wal mart" was over the top and melts away any credibility you might have on this issue.

fix buffalo said...



What "legitimate issues" does Bass Pro serve?

And how does the satirical sketch about the Floating Walmart undermine any credibility that you think I might have on this issue?


Anonymous said...

What is Bass Pro replacing from the original plan? Just trying to see where the negative reaction to Bass Pro is coming from. I'm not totally familiar with what the plans have been.

I understand the negativity towards the corporate welfare aspect of it, but unfortunately that seems to be a way of life in the rust belt cities.

Everyone talks about Pittsburgh's recovery, but a lot of that was aided by tax breaks and incentives. I'm not saying it is the right or wrond thing to do, just they way it is.

STEEL said...

I wish she would make her argument without the exaggeration, misleading comments, and hyperbole.

Why the constant references to Walmart? There is nothing in the project that remotely resembles a Walmart

The 15,000 signatures were for saving the actual canal, which was done. They had nothig to do with creation of a fakey historic village on adjacent land. That vague plan came latter and has been represented in a few sketches and plans that no one has voted on.

Any use of the word preservation in this fight is incorrect since there is nothing left to preserve unless you want to retain a piece of Buffalo's parking lot history. No plan is or can preserve anything that is not there!

PLEASE! if you can not argue honestly you might want to reevaluate your position.

This fight will be extremely damaging to the preservation cause. They are loosing valuable credibility on this one.

fix buffalo said...



Where's the "exaggeration and mis-leading comments"...

Why not place the Bass Pro in another location? Why here?

STEEL said...


I gave 3 examples in my text for more detail go to Pundit's site. He breaks it down quite well. As far as why here? Why not here?

Here is another Example

she says:
"A big-box outdoors store and a suburban strip mall developer have been handed the most globally significant land in Buffalo, with million-dollar subsidies."

Globally significant land? ? ? Puhleeeeease. I am in Chicago and I could ask any number of people about the Erie canal and most likely none of them would know anything about it. They don't even know were Buffalo is for God's sake. I think it would have even less relevance to someone in India or Spain.

There are NO quaint historic cobblestone streets there (although she suggests that there are) There ARE huge parking lots, a large contemporary sports arena, A WWII era military museum with large war ships, some high rise public housing projetcs, a massive highway bisecting the site and a historic water slip with a pretend historic bridge crossing it. The only thing quaint in relationship to this site is the naive idea that people from around the world are going to flock to this here by bus and subway to view this little stub of the Erie Canal and that someone is going to set up little shops in nearby as yet to be designed, planned, or funded fake historic buildings.

I say to you


b said...

Why not place the Bass Pro in another location? Why here?
It's obvious no big company at this point wants to try retail downtown except at a site on the water. Is there another spot on the water downtown on which you and Cynthia would deem acceptable for a good sized retail site? Just asking. I don't usually like Steel's views, but his comments here make sense and do cite exaggerations. Buffalo Pundit, another I seldom agree with, also rationally dissects misleading statements recently.

FWIW, I oppose both old and new plans, but bogus arguments Cynthia and her crowd make are pushing me toward the new plan. Not that my personal view matters to anyone, but if I'm any example her rhetoric will raise public support for the new plan. Every time anyone on that side uses the words "Larry", "Mindy", or "consensus" they lose ground. She should focus on why her plan is better for the area and stick to that. People don't care which approach came first; they care which is better on merits. She's argues in the style of an extremist ideologue. The ECHDC have misleading statements too - saying this project will draw millions of people per year. Half a million per year even sounds way too optimistic to me. But the big reason I oppose the new plan is the corporate welfare stuff. If retail can't succeed downtown without big subsidies I say screw retail downtown.

The previous so-called "consensus" plan seems worse. Looks like a lot of green space - basically a new park with hoped-for small shops nearby. Why in the world should we dedicate so much of such an apparently marketable spot to use as new park land? Seems to me a new park in that spot would be an ongoing expense, and would sit nearly empty every October to April, essentially as empty as that land sits now. And even summers as a park and historic thing, it would create very little economic activity. What jobs would it create?

Again, I disagree with subsidies but I'd strongly prefer as much private sector business use for that land as can be. Having govt agencies own and let it sit empty has obviously generated no economic activity, but isn't Cynthia's "consensus" green space historic plan very similar in that way - just putting expensive green lipstick on the pig?

Why isn't it better for our marketable little pig to start earning his keep by letting someone build something at that spot that earns somebody some profits - then as a result the people in our area (remember them?) can benefit from much-needed jobs and tax revenues?

It'd never happen, but I'd say sell land around the canal harbor to highest bidder with no strings attached on what to do with it, but also no subsidies and no tax breaks. Probably Benderson would be highest bidder and lease to Bass Pro, but who knows. Ha, even if Walmart bought it (they won't, I know), that would be fine with me. far from being a negative, having shopping access to a Walmart in the city would greatly benefit the vast majority of Buffalo residents.

This seems too obvious to say, but the biggest reason there's so much poverty in Buffalo (as you do a great job of documenting) is lack of economic activity - not lack of green space or lack of fake historic shops that do little or no business.

unspoilt said...

The original plan, AS AGREED TO BY ALL, has been breached by placing Bass Pro right in the middle of the public greenspace. This is the plan that had the EIS approved etc... Now that Bass Pro and Quinn et al are trying to renege on that earlier agreement it is up to them to replace the greenspace or move the Bass Pro to a compatible spot. How about where the parking ramp is supposed to go?

STEEL said...

The Bass Pro plan does have "green" space. What are you talking about? By the way there is nothing historical about having "green" space on this site. If anything "Green" space detracts from the historical experience. And just who are the "ALL' who agreed to any plan? I did not agree to it. Nobody I know agreed to it. Nobody I know was even asked about it.

b said...

Yeah unspoilt, you have a strange definition of "ALL". That spot of land has been taxpayer property for years. I'm a Buffalo taxpayer, and I sure didn't approve the original plan (nor would I have, if asked). So there's one fewer from your so-called "ALL".

It's a normal part of life that plans for anything are subject to improved ideas coming along. If the new plan is not an improvement, explain exactly why.

Ideas should be argued on their merits, not soley based on which came first. In fact, what you call the "original plan" was not the original plan - it was a change from the plan before that which people objected to because it had the canal terminus as a replica in a different spot.

Instead of David's question of why a big store and parking must be put at that particular spot, I can turn that question around and have it be equally valid:

Why does green space need to be at that particular spot?

Green space is not sacred, especially in a city like Buffalo so much in need of more economic activity and private sector jobs.

Not that a big store there will be a huge economic boost, but if it creates a few hundred jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist here then it's doing more for Buffalo's people than would brand spankin new green space which most days of the year would sit totally empty. The new plan has problems too with the subsidies - I hate that, but I still don't hear the previous plan being defended on its merits.

Can anyone make a good case solely on the merits of why that particular spot must be new green space?

Without demonizing attacks on any particular individuals or corporations, what's the best case that can be made for the previous plan if someone evaluated both plans without knowing which came first?

fix buffalo said...


Am now confused.

First you presented a case for no subsidies (earlier comment) and now you seem to be arguing in favor of a subsidized plan for the the central wharf area.

Agree with you about the supposed sanctity of green space.

One reason - others, too - that make the site so appealing is the opportunity present to create a vibrant retail area similar to Elmwood...where biz people could simply compete without subsidies...

Anonymous said...

For true historical preservation and to symbolize the perpetual stasis of Buffalo's downtown, I propose that that triangle remain as-is.

It's time to embrace grayspace for our downtown.

b said...

David, yes I'm against subsidies and if I'm dictator I'd have an internationally publiced auction to sell that land to highest bidder with no mandate for "1800s style architecture", and no mandates of any kind really besides minimal zoning standards. Also no subsidies and no tax breaks.

Reasoning for this is not that I hate preservation or hate govt, but it just seems to me that (a.) there's nothing to preserve except the canal slip (which I would preserve) and some cobblestones (nice but yawn), neither of which are any big deal that will draw many people or dollars as Cynthia fantasizes, and (b.) we've seen many times that the more a project (any project - retail, housing, etc.) is govt-planned and/or subsidized the less successful it's likely to be.

Whoever would invest their own money in that land would have every incentive in the world (greed) to make decisions that would maximize the people and dollars that are drawn there in the long run - which is exactly the end result which will do the most economic good for the most people in Buffalo.
Realistically, my approach won't get much support... so looking at the two plans that you were discussing - call them the "green space with fake historic little shops and cafes plan" and the "big store with parking and less but some green space plan", it seems to me the latter is much more likley to meet the end goal of doing the most economic good for the most people around here.

Considering our big problems around here, shouldn't that be pretty much the only goal?

I don't think it'd have nearly the success Byron and others claim, but it sounds like it would create more *jobs* and economic activity by far than the other plan - and that's what the city *NEEDS* (right?).

The other plan, which is not a free market plan either since it depends on a lot of govt funding, seems like a luxury regarding green space and a certain flop regarding the "little shops and cafes".

Am I overlooking any good economic benefits of that plan?

About your comment the opportunity present to create a vibrant retail area similar to Elmwood..:

Isn't it far fecthed to predict vibrancy will come without a big draw?

I like Elmwood but let's face it: isn't it a strech to call it "vibrant"?

How many jobs for Buffalo's people do small shops on Elmwood create as compared to the more vibrant retail areas that have big stores (Galleria, Blvd Mall, etc.)?

Doesn't even the Target on Delaware Ave probably pay out more in wages and benefits than all the shops in EV combined?

Also, a "small shop/cafe-centric" approach in the canal area would start with a huge disadvantage comapred to Elmwood - lack of the housing density provided by Richmond, Ashland, Norwood, Bidwell, Auburn, Highland, etc., etc. That's another reason I think retail down there would be doomed to failure without a big anchor and the related parking.

With our continued shrinking population, we won't fill up a dense residential area down around the canal slip in our lifetimes. Maybe a few 100 upscale residents will relocate to down there from Elmwood or North Buff - wildest success even a couple thousand. But is that enough to create much small shop/cafe vibrancy?

Both plans have big flaws.

Anonymous said...

It would be relevant to this discussion (which admittedly I'm joining late) if people looked at other similar sized city waterfront developments in terms of economics and the relationship to each city's 'renaissance'. Baltimore, Charleston, Sarasota, Providence, Boston, Savannah have all had much more sophisticated plans than this. People want to attract money and business? Make things that people with money and businesses like. Want to attract the same old? Bass pro looks like the way to go. I happen to have lived in several of those cities, btw. I can tell you that each one is a city with vision. Each had a derelict waterfront. And each had a turn-around because the vision brought in people from outside. What kind of people do we want moving to Buffalo? Because that's what it's going to take to turn this place around.