A Buffalo-themed water park is one of the ideas suggested by the team preparing the Canal Side Cultural Master Plan. Consultant Lord Cultural Resources worked with a local committee to recommend ways to transform the Canal Side blocks into an indoor/outdoor visitor space offering an array of activities incorporating museums and cultural experiences that will attract a substantial number of visitors. These visitors will help to create a market for commercial businesses that will be expected to lease space in the area. A strong cultural and programming component is particularly important now that Bass Pro is no longer a part of the project. The retailer was expected to be capable of attracting a large number of people to Canal Side year-round.
Development at Canal Side will be implemented in phases. In the short-term, the Cultural Master Plan suggests expanding existing programming opportunities with other relatively low-cost public programs, events, festivals and other site features at Canal Side. The intent is to attract large numbers of visitors to the waterfront and boosting investor confidence in the market for subsequent commercial developments. Phase One is detailed here.
In later phases, the increased number of persons attracted to Canal Side is expected to result in private sector investment in mixed-use facilities. These include opportunities for cultural organizations to become tenants in Canal Side or nearby.
One of the key recommendations is to provide a central facility within Canal Side to "serve as the starting point for learning about the spirit and character of Buffalo and what makes it special and unique. It also needs to be a place that orients visitors to other heritage, cultural, natural and other resources in the Buffalo area. This includes being the starting point for walking, river and other tours."
As the Cultural Master Plan is finalized, specific cultural facilities, programs and events will be identified. The plan is to identify opportunities that have wide audience appeal and that tell the "Story of Buffalo" by a mix of educational and entertainment venues.
The consultants have floated a number of concepts that combine cultural and commercial opportunities. The objectives are to:
• Activate Canal Side with programs and amenities to draw Buffalonians and regional visitors year-round;
• Celebrate Buffalo's rich history of innovation, ingenuity, and enterprise;
• Create a place that reflects the character and values of Buffalonians;
• Bring a critical mass of shops, cultural institutions, arts, nightlife, and dining to Canal Side; and,
• Establish historic Buffalo as the "museum" and it becomes a "grand stage" to tell the Story of Buffalo.
Preliminary ideas for the visitor experience themed around the Story of Buffalo are outlined below. According to the consultant, the ideas presented constitute experimental building blocks that require feedback and testing and will be refined in coming months.
Canal Side Public Market
The Canal Side Market is an ethnic and local farmer's market that begins in a large tent in Phase 1 and becomes a permanent structure in Phase 2.
Buffalo Story Center and Gateway
Serves as a gateway to the rich and varied offerings in and around Buffalo. Visitors find that there is much more to Buffalo than the Erie Canal.
The Miniature Buffalo Model
The Story of Buffalo is presented through the magic of scale and special effects in an exquisitely detailed set of models. Famous buildings could be recreated in extraordinary detail allowing visitors an up close look at some of Buffalo's celebrated architecture- including buildings demolished such as the Larkin Admin Building. Elements of this miniature city could be cast in bronze and distributed throughout the site.
Pride of Buffalo Legends Center
Features a legends experience as part of a commercial sports bar. Local sports, media and entertainment legends will be showcased and honored here in a presentation combining media and artifacts. An adjacent production studio, performance stage, and studios house live performances, interviews and master classes.
Canal Side Village as "Storefront Co-Lab"
A subsidized collaborative live, work and play development partners business, the arts and academics. Multilevel catwalks and overlooks connect this innovative mixed-use residential, office and small-scale retail space to create a centrally-located vibrant community hub.
Water Wonders Park
A four-season indoor waterfront attraction. Inspired by Frederick Law Olmsted's plan for a grand recreational water park in Buffalo, the Water Wonders Park features water in all its forms: steam, liquid, ice, snow, and draws on themes related to Buffalo's water story. The park could be connected to a water-themed boutique hotel and spa with water views and pool terraces that overlook the waterfront.
Maritime Ecology Center
A resource center, demonstration lab, and regional forum for energy, ecology, sustainability and aquatic research. It will bring together residents, nonprofits, advocacy and research groups, green technologies, scientists, and researchers to perform research, educate the community, and envision a sustainable future for Buffalo. The center could include a weather experience theater.
Erie Canal Heritage Center
The Center recognizes the historic role of Buffalo's waterfront as the Western Terminus of the Erie Canal. The story will be told- and preserved- with an archaeological dig that will become the anchor and focal point for the Canal Side experience.
DIY (Do It Yourself) Garage
Part workshop, part test-bed, part garage, and also a start-up where businesses can protoptye, the DIY Garage takes Buffalo's grass roots ingenuity to center stage, while fostering enterprise and entrepreneurship. Artists, hobbyists, tinkerers, amateur engineers, and designers can gather to problem-solve, strategize, experiment and mentor each other.
Innovation Heritage Center
Celebrates the Industrial Revolution as it played out in Buffalo using real, large scale objects such as steam engines, wind turbines, suspended jet fighter planes, train cars and automobiles. The enormous scale of machines and machinery create an awe-inspiring experience as it echoes with busts of steam from steam engines, and the pulsing throb of pistons and hydraulics. One possible location identifitied is the DL&W Building.
The ECHDC Cultural steering committee emerged from a meeting held in June 2010 with representatives from Western New York's leading cultural institutions. The leaders of these organizations stressed the need for authenticity and the importance of telling Buffalo's own story in the very place where the city began.
The cultural steering committee is comprised of: Bridget Quinn-Carey, Buffalo Public Library; Paul Hogan, the John R. Oishei Foundation; Cindy Letro, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; Mark Mortenson, Buffalo Museum of Science; Catherine Schweitzer, Baird Foundation; Barbara Park Leggett, Explore & More Children's Museum; Melissa Brown, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society; Thomas Mooney, Fourth Idea; John Montague, Buffalo Maritime Center; Duncan Hay, National Parks Service; Kevin Cottrell, Motherland Connections; and Ted Bickford.