While many of us find it frustrating when we think of the lack of connectivity between the Inner and Outer Harbor, the real frustration lies in the fact that the problem stems from a series of events that dramatically altered the way that we utilize the harbors. It was around the time of 1964 when a freighter took out the South Michigan Draw Bridge, never to be replaced for unexplained reasons. Instead of rebuilding the bridge, the industrial area was left to sit stagnant (some say at the request of General Mills). To this day the only activity that this parcel sees appears to be the occasional trucks coming and going from the General Mills plant. There is also an ‘overly sensitive’ guard station, with guards who have a field day whenever anyone attempts to snap a photo anywhere near the property (or the public street). When standing at the foot of Michigan Avenue, it is simply a tease knowing that the Outer Harbor is so close. With all of the newfound developments such as Riverfest Park and Mutual Riverfront Park (on the Inner Harbor), and the property surrounding the Buffalo Lighthouse (on the Outer Harbor), there is growing need for easy access, whether by car, foot or bike.
David Torke at Fix Buffalo has some bad news for the proponents of any new bridge traversing the Ship Canal at this site. It looks as if General Mills is attempting to permanently acquire the street that borders its property. If this happens, we will never see a bridge built at this prime section of the waterfront. Even if a bridge is built at the foot of Main Street (proposed by the ECHDC), or elsewhere, as the waterfront continues to develop we will most likely be looking at additional sites, and the foot of Michigan is a natural connection point. Or, we could rebuild the lift bridge and then see if there is even a need for a signature bridge. Take a look at the original bridge in the lead photo? That doesn’t look like an overly complicated design. Plus, the infrastructure is mostly in place, making the site even more attractive. What do we stand to gain by selling the street? The following is a post from David Torke, fixBuffalo:
General Mills, the global food giant and maker of Cheerios, has filed an application with the City of Buffalo to buy the dead end portion of Michigan Avenue between Ganson Street and the Ship Canal. This map, part of that application shows what one of world’s largest food companies wants. Here’s the street shot showing the portion of Michigan Avenue General Mills wants to buy.
The sale of this City street should not go forward. In every neighborhood City residents are fully engaged in revesing 50 years of bad urban planning. Waterfront access is part of citizen engagement in the process of reclaiming the City from past planning abuses. As seen in the last photo this portion of Michigan Avenue once connected Kelly Island to Fuhrmann Boulevard. The City removed the South Michigan Street Bridge in 1964.
The recent sale of City streets on the City’s East Side to large corporations has plenty of precedent. Trico bought Burton Alley between Main Street and Ellicott. Trico moved to Mexico two years later. Kaleida bought this portion of Goodrich Street between Ellicott and Michigan Avenue.
^Site of the former South Michigan Street Bridge
The application that General Mills submitted is before the City Planning Board and is on the agenda for their April 10th meeting. This part of Michigan Avenue at Ganson Street is in South District. Currently South District is without representation on the City Council as former Council Member Micky Kerns has moved on to the New York State Assembly. Please voice your concern and help stop this application from moving forward. If this street sale goes through, the low-cost environmentally friendly Michigan Street connection will be off the table. ECHDC will no longer be able to explore the historic connection to Buffalo’s waterfront. This is the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” way to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Buffalo based architect David DeBoy agrees. “Without this section of Michigan Ave, there would be no chance of ever seeing the reconstruction of the South Michigan Ave Bridge, which could provide the most cost effective, quickest build, city connector to the Outer Harbor. Historically Michigan Ave was the downtown link to the Outer Harbor and the street infrastructure is still in place but is now threatened. I wish General Mills and the City of Buffalo would recognize the great potential and restore South Michigan Ave Bridge benefiting both private and public interests. The other proposed new bridge locations just do not make sense economically or logistically!” Connect with Council President Richard Fontana and Mayor Byron Brown today. This application must be rejected.