After nearly ten years of study, site shifts, and lease negotiations, Bass Pro has dumped plans to open a store on the waterfront. On July 19, Congressman Brian Higgins issued an ultimatum to Bass Pro giving the retailer two weeks to act on a lease for a Buffalo location. Bass Pro president Jim Hagale notified Congressman Higgins today that it “cannot respond favorably to the lease draft forwarded to us by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation within the fourteen day time period you requested in your letter.”
We wish you and the ECHDC every success with the Canal Side project.
– Jim Hagle, Bass Pro Inc. President
Bass Pro was envisioned to anchor the Canal Side project and was expected to be a year round draw to a waterfront that can best be described as desolate and sleepy, particularly in winter months. ECHDC Jordan Levy tried to put a smiley face on the situation. From The Buffalo News:
At a news conference this afternoon, a disappointed Jordan Levy, the harbor corporation’s chairman, said he learned today of Bass Pro’s withdrawal from company founder and chairman Johnny Morris, but expressed confidence that the planned mix of restaurants, retail and hotels will move forward.
“This canal is, and always has been, bigger than Bass Pro,” Levy said. “Canal Side is under way, and we remain absolutely committed to the redevelopment and revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront.
Bass Pro’s interest in Buffalo was a costly one. The company is said to have invested well over one million dollars in working with ECHDC and its supporters on due diligence. From an ECHDC statement:
ECHDC will move forward with our development partner, Benderson, as it continues to play a critical role as the development escalates. Benderson has already identified several potential tenants who are interested in locating in this mixed use waterfront development. The Donovan and Webster blocks offer opportunities to increase downtown critical mass and we will seek other unique destination retailers.
However, we must clear any remaining doubts on whether ECHDC will have title to the property in order to develop the site; we will not have a serious partner stepping forward otherwise. ECHDC must clear the last remaining hurdles to finish what was started and we will work closely with the Buffalo Common Council to complete this critical step in transferring the land.
The past six months have seen the Canal Side project reach several major milestones: the adoption of our SEQRA findings and the General Project Plan, the approval of a Project Labor Agreement with local trade unions and the signing of the historic NYPA agreement which provides $105 million for the development of the Inner Harbor.
We have come too far in this critical juncture in developing our waterfront to let this enormous opportunity to transform our city, create jobs and celebrate the heritage of our canal and our history slip through our fingers. ECHDC recognizes that this news is disheartening, but we want to make it very clear to the citizens of Buffalo and Western New York that Canal Side is underway and will continue to move forward – ECHDC remains absolutely committed to the redevelopment and revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront for, not only Buffalo, but for the great people of this region.
Buffalo Pundit take.
Buffalo News’ editorial.