By Chris Catanzaro:
As Buffalo waterfront continues its transformation into an accessible, enjoyable and entertaining avenue for Western New Yorkers and as chatter about Canalside continues, it made me wonder what we can actually do with our canals. A recent article in the Sunday newspaper included a picture of a stretch of two-story, multi-use buildings along another city’s canal system. At first thought, I gleamed “How cool and exciting and enlivening.” And then I questioned, “Why can’t Buffalo build something like this?” A recent trip to Boston, MA, where small pockets of niche attractions such as Faneuil Hall and the North End to name a few, only harkened an internal voice within me to wonder aloud to friends and family. The proper selection of attraction, architecture, culture and above all, common sense planning, is what our canals could use at this juncture in the city’s planning for the waterfront.
Multi-use development projects are being constructed and contemplated quite often these days around these parts. A project that would bring back life and light to our canal system would almost definitely seem like a worthwhile venture. Can you picture a row of two-story buildings with ground level occupancy of cafes, restaurants, local shops, maybe a small produce market and various other attractive venues? And possibly a park in the front of the buildings designed to attract citizens and guests during all our amazing seasons…even our snowy winters? And how about the top filled by residential housing, local businesses and possibly a small museum or another cultural attraction? Carefully selected architecture reminiscent of Buffalo’s lively heyday on the canals would almost be a draw unto itself if properly constructed.
I will admit that I am not an urban planner, an architect, a historian nor a developer with millions to spend. I do, however, have a long-grown love affair with my hometown because of its unique history, architecture and friendly feel that this city has emanated throughout time. I also have traveled domestically and internationally (Boston, Quebec, France, Italy, Austria) and have witnessed how the beauty, attractiveness and cozy comfort of well-planned projects along canals and waterfronts can attract people from all walks of life. I don’t know if “big box” or anchor tenants are the answer to Buffalo’s waterfront, but I do believe that already established and rejuvenated pockets in Buffalo such as Elmwood Village, Allentown, Hertel and the Upper West Side are proof that unique and comfortable areas are sustainable and suitable prototypes for this area.