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The Real Picture: Is it Time?

Is it time to push for reopening Genesee Street?   We all know frequent commenter Queen City thinks so.  But is re-establishing a key spoke in Joseph Ellicott’s radial plan worth the cost and will it be a significant boost to downtown? 

Genesee Street Disconnect.jpg
Queen City posted a reply to the latest construction update of Genesee Gateway, asking to see the “real picture,” the unfortunate design errors of cutting off one of Buffalo’s main streets:

“I personally wish they (BuffaloRising) would stop showing these particular photos of the Genessee Gateway.


There can be no discussion of the Genesee Gateway without a picture showing how this redevelopment dead ends into the Hyatt Atrium and the Convention Center.

BuffaloRising…show the real picture…of Genesee Gateway that dead ends at the Hyatt Atrium…so that people can see exactly what is holding the eastside back. Genessee should be bringing people from the Erie Canal Wharf but is blocked by City Court Parking Lot, it should be bringing people from Delaware and Franklin but is blocked by the Convention Center, it should be bringing people from Main Street but its blocked by the Hyatt Atrium.

BuffaloRising simply cannot separate the issue of such a wonderful development as the Genesee Gateway without its larger context!”

Genesee Blocked 2.JPG

The Hyatt hotel opened in 1984 incorporating the historic Genesee Building on the corner of Main and Genesee. The hotel was part of the redevelopment of downtown Buffalo’s Fountain Plaza in the 80’s, and was at one time proposed as a new build on the site of the old Genesee Building. However, plans were altered to incorporate the landmark into the design, but failed to please many. Two historic buildings adjacent to the Genesee Building were taken down for a two-story add on seen on the right of the entry photo and a new wing of hotel rooms to the west. Also, the hotel’s atrium and kitchen facilities were plopped right onto Genesee Street.
The Hyatt only added to Genesee’s plight.  The concrete blank-walled convention center directly behind it provided the biggest assault.
Convention Center.jpg
Now, with downtown strengthening and traffic returning to Main Street, perhaps it is time to reopen Genesee Street.  The Queen City Hub Plan calls for such a bold move:
“Re-opening the Genesee Street radial would correct some of the acknowledged mistakes of the past.  This would mean demolishing the atrium section of the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, part of the Buffalo Convention Center, and the Charles R. Turner parking garage next to Buffalo City Court….Additiional work to make Genesee Street a ‘great street’ could be done from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on the east all the way to the water on the west.”
Is this what the city needs and what the public wants?  Will it spur additional development downtown, on the East Side and the waterfront?  Imagine a new state-of-the-art Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and Hotel along the outer harbor waterfront, with panoramic views of both the skyline and water. Imagine a downtown better connected to surrounding neighborhoods.
But then there’s the price tag. How much would something like this cost? Here’s what the 2003 Queen City Hub Plan says:
“Estimated costs for all phases including land acquisition, demilition, infill improvements, and terminus at the water range from $600 million to $1 billion.”
Where would funding come from, and who would implement such a task? Answers remain unclear, but how important of a plan is this? Would it be another mistake as the funding could be put to better use elsewhere? 
Urban Design Project.jpg
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