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Cubs Versus Bisons Versus the Silver Bullet Mentality

I was thinking of Coca Cola field while I was writing this recent story about the failure of the sprawl-based way of building a baseball stadium.  I was also thinking of this story posted a while back about the failure of silver bullet thinking that has plagued WNY for decades.  Here is the first paragraph from that story:

Recent posts on BRO and at Fix Buffalo got me thinking about the “silver bullet” syndrome that seems to prevail in Buffalo. How many big projects have been proposed and completed to great fanfare and praise, proclaimed as the one key element destined to save the city only to show minimal if any positive result. I found this postcard of the old Aud when it was fairly new. As you can see the neighborhood in this part of downtown was as bleak then as it is now. I am sure that the Aud then was perceived as a catalyst for growth in this part of the city. Wipe out the old canal slums and build a grand entertainment venue and the throngs will come. Well the throngs did come for each event and then the promptly left. Nothing to do in the neighborhood but to go home after the game. (Ironic that the new silver bullet for this neighborhood is to put a Disney version of the canal slums back in place).
Just as with the Aud, way back at mid century, the city never followed through with comprehensive plans and development around the Bisons’ Coca Cola field. This stadium opened to great fanfare and great praise.  But just as with the old Aud the blocks surrounding the Bison’s stadium remain as bleak and empty today (maybe more so) than the day before construction of the stadium started over 25 years ago. It seems to be a disease of leadership that they can only see the importance of the big ticket, big splash project and can never understand the importance of the entire context. Perhaps we are seeing a change in this way of thinking with the current Canalside planning.  If drawings can be believed, this will someday soon be a rich and vibrant part of the city. In the meantime the area around Coca Cola field remains quite dismal and has nothing to entice lingering by the tens of thousands of people it attracts throughout spring summer and fall. 
Is this really all we get?  Really?  Should the people of Buffalo be satisfied with parking lots and highway off ramps surrounding one of Downtown’s major draws?  I have heard of no plans to improve this important part of downtown. Does leadership accept this sprawl environment in the heart of the city as good enough?
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I was also thinking of this recent piece which I wrote about the need to remove over-designed exit ramps from the thruway onto Niagara Street.  Just like these Niagara Street ramps. the overwrought and imposing ramps on the east side of Coca Cola Field were designed to form a link to a never fully realized inner ring highway loop surrounding downtown.  The ramps are ugly and take up a tremendous amount of space, creating a massive wasteland of sprawl space which could potentially be extremely valuable urban space.  The equivalent area of the neighborhood around Chicago’s Wrigley Field is densely packed with restaurants and buildings sporting rooftop viewing clubs. In Chicago people linger around the stadium for many hours because there is something to linger for.  In Buffalo people just leave for someplace else.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Buffalo stadium is that you can view directly into the ballpark from the outfield on the east. Unfortunately you must do this from what used to be a city street but what is now nothing but a cattle chute for cars. Highway ramps are not pleasant places to be and these giant octopus like structures do nothing for the stadium or the city. These ramps must go along with the vacant land and parking lots surrounding the stadium.  It is time to stop thinking of these big silver bullet projects as stand alone solutions.  Get rid of these ramps. There are easy ways to redesign them so they take far less space.  Return this land to normal city street patterns and make plans to encourage dense urban development that is designed for people. I can’t believe anyone could look at this mess and feel we should be satisfied with the results.
It’s time to make cars secondary to people. It is time to think of the city as a place to be instead of a place to pass through.  Tear down these ramps!

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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