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Create a “Place” @ The Foot of Main Street

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.

Step 1

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.


Step 2

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.


Step 3

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!



Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • flexme

    yes indeed quite, quiet too !

  • Flyguy2pt0

    Step 1- Get the skyway and its concrete pillars out of the way by putting in into a tunnel beneath the Inner Harbor area and Buffalo River before emerging again somewhere along Route 5 along the Outer Harbor. Tunnel capacity include southbound light rail extension to outer harbor and bike trail accomodations regardless of whether an extension heads east to a new stadium, the airport, etc. Other cities have multiple rail lines headed in different directions. 
    Step 2- All the stuff outlined in the article.

  • SammyDubbs

    Completely Agree!  It’s a best kept secret how you get to the Outer from the Inner right now.  When I’m running on this path, I see so many confused tourists that just want to get to the Lighthouse, but feel like they are going the wrong way because the path gets worse and worse!
    The Terminal has so much potential right now, but the path beside it isn’t exactly inviting (always covered in a combination of moss and bird feces).
    I like architect’s ideas and feel that’s the direction we should plan for, but in the meantime (this summer), at least a pave a consistent path around the pillars with bike lane markings so people know they’re going the right way!

  • runner68

    Light rail extension to the outer harbor is stupid; instead extend to OFW or Riverbend, and then a branch off to the Belt Line, so it can actually go somewhere. The Outer Harbor will always be a nowhere, even when it gets built up. The Outer Harbor is the ‘end’, there’s nothing beyond there. It doesn’t warrant a light rail extension.
    A bridge at the foot of Main should be a priority and I’m sure when the cars on main project reaches this spot it will be talked about even more. But it is needed, along with a South Michigan bridge. We shouldn’t build one or the other, we need both.
    While this is a good idea, we should do this in conjunction in removal of the skyway, and an eventual reuse of the second level of the Terminal.
    Just my two cents.

  • runner68 Definitely agreed about building TWO bridges. The South Michigan bridge makes the most sense to me, seeing as how it would really be replacing a bridge that was once there, thus being more cost effective. It is however, at a distance from the main hive of waterfront activity, which is where a Canalside bridge would come into play. 
    Both bridges would take on a major role in reconnecting the Outer Harbor to the rest of the city.

  • solonggone

    I did not read that the light rail would extend to the OH.  I read it as the light rail would make a ‘turn’ towards South Buffalo and connect to the stadium.  This of course is based on the Cobblestone site being selected for the new stadium…which is a pretty safe bet.  
    I think for the DL&W train barn to make a full come back you’re going to need to find a massive anchor.  A company that would be able to find use of a portion of the facility 24/7.  A large grocer or brewery come to mind.

  • runner68

    solonggone Well the second level of the DL&W still contains platforms and tracks still perfectly preserved from the early 1900’s. Last year when Roswell proposed to elevate the trains to the second story, I was surprised that so many people said it was impossible, because passenger trains used to do this by using an elevated track that was pretty much where Prime St. in Canalside is now..
    I think the best reuse for the DL&W is exactly what its intended for…a train station…all the infrastructure exists, and to be honest it would be a beautiful one..Im sure there is more than enough room for more than just a light rail stop though.
    Someone mentioned light rail to the Outer Harbor, which is why I brought it up. 
    And I also agree that a Cobblestone Stadium is a safe bet, but imagine connecting a new stadium to the second story of the DL&W..that would be really neat. 
    Im excited to see what happens.

  • runner68

    Brad J Bethel Jr Both bridges are a necessity, no matter what anyone says. Connectivity is a must, and one bridge isn’t gona do it if the Skyway comes in Riverbend rendering they propose a road leading from Tifft St. to the 190, so I think we’d be okay. But if you want to actually get people to the Outer Harbor, you definitely need a Main St. bridge..a South Michigan would be really, really good too.

  • Gratephan

    Restore the Michigan Street lift bridge, plain & simple.

  • BrendanS

    On a somewhat related note, I noticed today that Google Maps updated their satellite images of the Buffalo area (and others too I’m sure). It looks like the images were taken in the summer/fall of 2014.

  • OldFirstWard

    Stage 1, DON”T RUSH IT! 
    Plan it, discuss it, refine it, discuss it again.  Get it right.  
    Create a small citizen panel, and not with citizens that are business executives, doctors, and company presidents. Government appointed boards need to have checks and balances too.   The people need honest accountability.

  • OldFirstWard

    They should have taken images in late fall and when the leaves are off the trees.  On some streets you can’t even see the house.

  • micahh64

    “On a somewhat related note, I noticed today that Google Maps updated
    their satellite images of the Buffalo area (and others too I’m sure).”
    I just took a look — they FINALLY have One Canalside and HarborCenter sketched up on the bird’s-eye view . . . before, they just had the pre-reno Donovan Bldg. and an empty lot, respectively . . .

  • USRT

    Buffalo Rising did a piece showcasing Mr. Gordon’s work and suggestions regarding planning and streetscapes for the district before. The man is excellent. His suggestions are insightful and brilliant, and this article should be on the top of the desk over at the NFTA offices (Minkel and Zemsky) and the ECHDC (Gioia and Dee).
    But good luck with that. The decision makers don’t want any input from well meaning civic activists. They know everything better than we, the Great Unwashed, do.
    Is anyone following the most recent, recent developments at Canalside? The construction of three buildings on the South Aud Block is quickly becoming a hot mess, with only one developer stepping forward, and apparently onerous specs in the RFP concerning the favorited status being given to the Explore And More people. I was hoping to see dirt turning on the freshly sodded grass by spring time, but given the track record of the ECHDC and the way they operate, who knows if we will ever see progress in the short term.
    Next.. the lighting of the Connecting Elevator. The initial lightning project’s phase 1 was to include the skyway, the Michigan and Ohio Street bridges, and the Connecting Elevator with a kinetic light show. That was downsized a couple of times, so now phase 1 is only the Connecting Elevator. A July 4, 2015 unveiling was promised, but now Tom Dee says it will be late summer before this is up and running. His explanation? It doesn’t get dark early enough in July for people to get the maximum use out of this.
    And there you have it. HarborCenter, an enormously complex project, gets done in 20 months, and the hotel 8 months more, with private sector leadership. At ECHDC, an assortment of political hacks, government mooches and EC Democratic Committee hangers-on holding well paid jobs drag on for years and years and years with their nonsense and incompetence. 
    Perhaps the next “One B4 I Die” t-shirt should be printed with the Canalside logo… seeing a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup here in Buffalo is more likely than seeing the Inner Harbor ever get finished.

  • grovercleveland


  • grovercleveland

    I could maybe see a pedestrian/bicycle bridge from the inner harbor to the outer harbor, but its pretty hilarious to see folks on BR, who hate cars and hate development in places that have real estate value advocate for 2 bridges to what they want to be a park and nothing else, when there is already access via ohio st and rt 5.

  • OldFirstWard

    I wonder if they finally have views of Main St.  There were no views of no car zone blocks for years. 200 – 700 blocks.

  • Northbuff

    USRT Tom Dee’s excuses are par for the course. What’s next, his dog ate the blueprints.

  • solonggone

    The train station is gone.  What’s left is the train shed.  
    The best  use of the shed structure is to find something that can maximize the vast open space for the most benefit.  I don’t think a train station is that.
    A community bazaar would do the job on one level.  So would breaking the train shed into 20 parcels and running a ‘road’ down the center.  Think small kitchens, similar in size to food trucks, making one of the most unique restaurant rows in the US.  
    That would truly make the shed a year round destination.

  • irish dave

    solonggone runner68 Yes!  This was a great idea when it was mentioned last year. A light rail train station with a big bazzar and/or market, which is the main stop/station near the parking garage they were talking about.  The idea is a park and ride for medical campus workers to drive downtown, park there and then ride metro rail up main to the med campus.  If you have all those commuters then a hub style train station would be great.  It would create a bustling spot…

  • BuffaloGals

    grovercleveland The problem is to get from the Hatch to the lighthouse (~760 feet away), you have to travel 4.8 miles as a pedestrian or cyclist.

  • USRT 
    Better to spend money on consultants, lawyers, and designers that to actually BUILD something in their book.  And why RFP the whole site?  That could actually put them out of business.  They want to keep the gravy train flowing for as long as they can without anyone asking questions.  So pipe down USRT- our waterfront is in good hands with ECHDC!

  • BuffaloGals

    runner68 The train to “nowhere” serves Canalside, the Arena, Coca Cola Field, ice skating at Fountain Plaza, Chippewa, Allen, The Medical Campus, Anchor Bar, Canisius, Delaware Park and the zoo, and UB. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. 
    I want it to be extended too, but how did this idea arise that the Metro Rail “goes nowhere”? Buffalo is a small city and isnt’ going to have a massive subway system. The above destinations are among the biggest the area has to offer.

  • bufforward

    Flyguy2pt0 Good thing I just found about 3 billion dollars in my couch cushions…

  • runner68

    irish dave solonggone I wasn’t talking about the station concourse. I was talking about the shed. The upper level contains two train platforms along with tracks. Climb up one of the stairs along the trail next to the river. Look in the windows ad you will see track grooves with platforms. While the shed below was to store train cars and unload freight, the upper level was for passengers, who would then walk down stairs into the now demolished concourse and waiting area. Like I said there is more than enough room to reuse the platform and do whatever the hell else you want.

  • runner68

    BuffaloGals BuffaloGals I never said the train went no where. I said the Outer Harbor is nowhere. Why should a train that serves so much have a terminus that is in the middle of no where. It isn’t a future stop on a future light rail line, its the end. Just loo at a map. After the Outer Harbor there’s nothing, which is why it would be foolish to extend light rail there. It would have no other choice but to end there. A line going down the NFTA owned old DL&W ROW through the OFW to riverbed, with a spur leading to the Belt Line, which would be much more effect and wise in the long run. 
    Please read more throughly.

  • runner68

    grovercleveland Connectivity is key. Multimodal whether it be car, bike, pedestrians, or even roller blades are a must. Except light rail. See my comment below.

  • BeardedBuffalonian


  • BuffaloGals

    runner68 I know, I can’t read. Thanks for the instructions.
    I simply asked how the idea arose that the “train goes nowhere.” Quick Google search and result:

  • MatthewMoje

    Mr Gorbachev, Tear down that skyway!

  • runner68

    BuffaloGals Again, like you and I agreed on, I know the train doesn’t go nowhere. But a lot of people assume that if it doesn’t go to UB North, then it doesn’t go anywhere. But a lot of people don’t realize that Downtown, The Medical Campus, and UB South are actually place too. I hope you understand my argument about the Outer Harbor though. It simply doesn’t make any sense. A terminus that really isn’t somewhere, isn’t the best idea for our great train. Riverbend and the OFW are more important.

  • MichaelJarosz

    Stage 4. Remove skyway

  • RoxanaAMacdougall

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  • u1dery

    On Friday, Feb. 13th, NFTA posted that they don’t necessarily agree with everything on Buffalo Rising about extending rail to the Cobblestone District but that in general they approve of the idea.

    Kudos to Buffalo Rising for the NFTA giving such prominent notice to ideas on a website

  • FrancesBBrafford

    until I looked at the receipt which had said $6310 , I didn’t believe …that…my neighbour realy earning money part time at their computer. . there uncle has done this for under nine months and recently cleard the morgage on there villa and bourt Lotus Elise . you can try this out 


  • BuffaloLMT

    Where do the concerns of General Mills come into play here? I’ve read in the past that there are many. I’m sure they have to be taken into account. Many jobs and a level of pride to have them there. I personally would miss them.

  • greenca

    Somehow General Mills survived all the years when the area they’re in was booming, so I am sure they could survive with an increased in activity from nil to something.

  • BuffaloLMT General Mills should not have a say where the bridge should be placed if they’re not contributing to waterfront development. If they’re not part of the solution, they risk being part of the problem.

  • buffalo cyclist

    MichaelJarosz A massive amount of traffic currently uses the Skyway.  The existing infrastructure would not be able to handle the increase in traffic that would occur if the Skyway were removed.  Moreover, such an increase in traffic would pose a significant hazard to pedestrians and cyclists and would disturb wildlife living in the Tifft Nature Preserve.  Neighborhoods such as South Buffalo, the Old First Ward, the Lower East Side and Kaisertown would be negatively impacted by the substantial increase in commuter traffic.  The cost of removing the Skyway would also be substantial and – if past public projects are an accurate guide- would likely exceed initial cost projections.

  • DarrinBitterman

    buffalo cyclist MichaelJarosz What would prevent the skyway from being “moved” to the area off the Niagara Thruway, near the chemical plants (just west of South Park Avenue)?  Much of the area is brownland, and creating a lower elevated highway, connecting with Fuhrmann Blvd is possible, without negatively impacting the neighborhoods in South Buffalo.