The talks of the future bridge leading from the Inner Harbor to the Outer Harbor are eerily quiet. The conversation has someone been interrupted by rumblings of an extension of the Metro Rail, that might be heading south with the possible coming of the Bills’ stadium.
Regardless of which comes first, or what never comes to pass, the question of the status of the foot of Main Street should considered in the interim. By “status”, I’m talking about the connectivity between the Old First Ward, the Cobblestone District and Canalside. Yes, there is an obscure NFTA parking lot that leads to a trail, which lends to bike-ped connectivity, but it’s not a pretty sight.
Architect Charlie Gordon is overly familiar with this part of the waterfront, and feels as if the City, the NFTA, and others should be coming up with a strategy to create a “place” instead of what is currently found at the spot.
Enable Harbor Centre and Canalside Achieve Fullest Potential – Charlie Gordon
Congratulations to the Pegula’s, along with their crack team of contractors, who completed the spectacular Harbor Center in record time and within budget. Further kudos to the magical ice skating/cycling initiative which fills out a year-round Canalside activity slate. This momentum will be greatly handicapped from reaching its full potential, however, when just next door lies an inaccessible and underused NFTA surface parking lot in deplorable condition.
Most of us have stood upon this spot near the water’s edge. As we gaze northward up Main Street one can hardly even see the street, nor Canalside, nor Harbor Center, through an ugly maze of fencing and haphazardly arranged detritus and “back of House” support storage. This potentially special place at the mouth of the Buffalo River offers potentially panoramic views to Lake Erie, the historic DL&W Terminal and Times Beach. The location is the original “Front Door” to our historic waterfront!
Understandably our NFTA is going through difficult financial times and cannot shoulder the sole financial burden of making improvements. Here is a 3 step vision which allows for incremental improvements that won’t “break the bank” and can sow the seeds for future private investment.
Green-up the whole area, camouflage the 15-20 parking spaces, replace the prison style fencing with more friendly control. Incorporate some thoughtful landscaping Most important, create an attractive connection under around the most southerly Skyway abutment to connect with the Canalside Board-walk. –that link would of course, continue as always imagined eastward along the DL&W riverfront façade.
Create direct access to the water’s edge so people can physically engage the water. Buffalo is the only US city I know of that does not let people down to water’s edge and dangle their feet in the water. Envisioned would be a stepped amphi-theater “carved out” to let the river “invade” the land, eradicate the barrier-like current water edge 7’-8’ above current water line. Easy to do, and not that expensive.
Create a real Main Street riverfront destination. We can envision a vibrant functioning Gateway accessible and usable from land or water. We just need to basically extend the existing DL&W train barn 2nd level over Main Street. Then design a protective grand roof canopy over, that would incorporate well thought-out elevator/escalator/stairways to connect Main Street with DL&W 2nd level.
Historians know that the existing train barn is only one part—actually the “back end” of what was once a great early 20th century Buffalo version of NYC’s Grand Central Station. DL&W’s “Front door” once consisted of a passenger arrival & waiting space—a “ Great Hall”. This whole complex originally extended all the way to foot of Main Street.
The historic terminus of Main Street was once a bustling, exciting and unique multi-modal world class center of Commerce. We –private with public support–have the opportunity to take steps now to rejuvenate this location by capturing the momentum of the moment. We’ve got good. Let’s get to great!