Now that artists and businesses are making a concerted effort to shine a positive light
on the 500 block of Main Street, it's time that The City takes a closer look at Roosevelt Plaza. The plaza could be a serious draw, but instead it is lifeless and appears derelict. To think that Fountain Plaza is a stone's throw away is incredible. In the summer Fountain Plaza is filled with life as people sip their coffees and spend their lunch breaks amidst the water features. In the winter there is ice skating, which appears to get busier and busier each season. Coffee shops and restaurants surround Fountain Plaza, hoping to capitalize off of the energy.
It's a completely different story at Roosevelt Plaza. Instead of energy there is apathy. That's unfortunate, because there is a giant opportunity to turn the high profile park into a destination. It's located across from The Hyatt and M&T Gold Dome Bank, and close to the Electric Tower, which gives the park a sweet architectural backdrop. You would think that all of these businesses would approach The City and request some serious action. There are a number of vacant storefronts that could really use the added boost of a complete makeover. Plus, I'm sure that the smaller businesses that are there could use some added activity. Seeing that Main Street will soon be reopened to auto traffic, it is the perfect time to create another anchor people park that would tie in with Fountain Plaza.
This past weekend I passed by a people plaza in Midtown (see above) that was very lively thanks to many of the interesting features. There was a large water fountain, steps to sit on, planters, trees and there's even a Jazz on the Plaza concert series. Can you imagine if the artists of the 500 Block had the ability to utilize a public park such as this? During the recent Chalkfest, a couple of the chalkers infiltrated Roosevelt Plaza (lead image), and once again I could envision what a draw the place might actually be someday. Creating an interesting public space is not rocket science. Buffalo has done it before (once again, look at Fountain Plaza), and it's time to do it again.
When we built the world's largest ice maze (photo: Joe Cascio) a couple years back during the Powder Keg Festival, we chose the site for the maze on top of the HSBC Tower plaza because at the time it was also a lifeless part of downtown (it still is). That plaza has so much potential that it's scary. At the time, when we were looking for a place to build the maze, the large footprint of property was cordoned off because The Tower was worried about liability issues (from what I can remember). It's a shame that we live in a world where so much potential is squashed due to frivolous lawsuits. We need to rethink the value and the importance of drawing people back to downtown by creating places of interest, rather than creating dead zones. Can you imagine if we could, one day, build a permanent maze similar to the ice maze? Now that would be a ton of fun. In the meantime the future of the HSBC Tower is in flux. My hope would be to see the building converted to part residential, with an incredible people plaza at its base. The bones to these plazas are already in place and in need of some skin.
At this point, the most important thing to do is to look at what other cities have done to activate their public spaces and follow suit.