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Canal Side Looks Promising

Bass Pro may not have signed on the dotted line, but the master planning process for Benderson Development’s Canal Side project is moving forward. Internationally renowned architecture and planning firm Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects is designing the project at the foot of Main Street. Though under contract for quite some time, the firm’s vision for the 1.1 million sq.ft. development is now coming into focus.
The public is expected to see nearly complete designs for the project during a public hearing on the environmental review document this fall.  In the meantime, Ehrenkrantz recently put an overview of the project on its website:

Canal Side pays creative homage to the harbor’s commercial and industrial past while looking ahead to the city’s future. The district’s dense network of streets, waterways, and open spaces is designed to convey a sense of constant, bustling movement, recalling the original energy of the canal itself. The Canal is a three foot deep channel of water at the Center Canal and 18 inches deep in the other segments (all above the Hamburg drain) lined by “towpaths” harkening back to the days of the Erie Canal, where mules would pull barges. The towpaths will be pedestrian paths lined with restaurants and shops, with connections to the many different levels of the public and retail environments.


At points along the canal visitors will be able to occupy the canal on a series of anchored barges housing cafes and restaurants. At the center of the Canal will be the Bass Pro Aquarium stocked with local species of fish as an attraction to experience marine wildlife. Visitors will be able to experience all angles of the aquarium by traveling beneath it in a “Water Tube” which connects the Bass Pro entry atrium and parking garage to the new Canal Side Hall, above it on a bridge and around it on an encircling towpath.

CSOne.jpgIn warm weather the Canal will usher in a comfortable breeze from Lake Erie, and be the site of events and activities. Visitors will be able to rent paddle boats and get out on to the Canal, Bass Pro will host periodic fishing tutorials, and a temporary stage that is located on the Canal will host summer concerts. Café tables and outdoor seating will line the tow paths using the Canal environment as the backdrop for a meal or snack, and enforcing the vibrancy of the district.

In the winter the canals will transform into a central community space where skating rinks will keep the space alive with crowds. The rinks will be lined with seating at the edges of the drained and iced canals. Skate rentals/boat rentals will be available from a mobile kiosk adjacent to the Skyway. Public restrooms will be provided within the nearby Canal Side Hall. The paths will be active areas in the winter as well with fireplaces and a series of varied heated canopies for cover. The design also pays special attention to shielding visitors from the harsh elements of the winter using landscaping and massing elements to break winds from the lake.

CSTwo.pngAnchoring the development will be the Bass Pro store, a 130,000 sf. outdoor, hunting, and fishing retail experience. Bass Pro stores across the country expand the definition of “region” attracting visitors who drive hours to shop, and enjoy the interactive displays and events that are regularly featured. The Bass Pro experience will not be wholly contained within the store, rather they will utilize the aquarium on the Canal for fishing events, and the Canal Side Common for several annual tented events. Bass Pro will also occupy 30 boat slips located off the Central Wharf for boat displays and sales. The best districts utilize the drawing power of major anchors and ensure people stay by offering plenty of options for any experience that might be desired.

At every opportunity, the heritage of the canal is interpreted through murals, sculptures, and other narrative and artistic devices. In addition to public art the canal journey has several specific features that will be identifying landmarks in the project. The Liberty Pole, located at the Washington Street terminus of the Canal is a historically significant monument that was once located steps away, celebrating Buffalonian’s patriotism. A large “water wheel” will be constructed in the Canal in front of the Bass Pro Atrium turning with the falling water from the aquarium.

Progress is also seen with the reconstruction of the historical Inner Harbor street grid, consisting of four unearthed cobblestone streets. Progress can be seen 24/7 on the Harbor Cam
Image by ECHDC
Construction of the 130,000 sq.ft. Bass Pro store is expected to begin next summer and be complete in mid-2011.  Check out the Erie Canal Harbor web site for more information. 
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