At long last Porter Avenue will see the infrastructure improvements needed to turn the street into a the gateway to the city that it always should have been. Phase 1 of the $3 million project is underway (see back story), and with it the street will be transformed into something much closer to how it was originally intended – as an Olmsted Parkway.
Now that work has begun from near the entrance of Lasalle Park to Niagara Street, it would be fitting to examine some of the surrounding properties that have been contributing to the blight – properties such as the former Duty Free and surrounding vacant lots. The buildings that look vacant are actually storage facilities for Duty Free and will (most likely) some day be completely vacated. When will that happen? When a new bridge and plaza are built. Should we be waiting that long for these properties to undergo potential reuse? No.
These are prime parcels of land that are completely underutilized. Can you imagine if a developer was able to build a multi-use building on this land? Think of the views. Think of the proximity to Canada… and the parks. Maybe D’Youville would be interested in the property since they are landlocked. The buildings that occupy the property at this point in time are relatively small. Couldn’t a developer work a deal with the current owners of the former Duty Free property to purchase the land? Maybe the owners would be reluctant to sell, especially if Duty Free is paying a pretty penny for use of the buildings. If that is the case, then there needs to be public and City pressure placed upon Duty Free to find a storage area in another place that is NOT the international gateway to the city. A mixed-use development could be an excellent opportunity for retail as well as residential. Once again, the proximity to Canada is a major plus for any retailer looking to draw from shoppers in the US and Canada.
How is any of this going to happen? We need a developer or The City to approach Duty Free and the owners of the properties. Look at all of the money being invested into this area. Whether it’s Centennial Pool or the Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse, there is a spotlight being shown on Porter Avenue for the first time in years. These vacant-looking properties need to be reexamined for best possible use. There needs to be buy-in (or buy-out) from Duty Free on what will once again be an Olmsted Parkway. We can sit around for years waiting for something to happen, or we can be proactive and approach the parties that have helped to create this eyesore.