If you’re a fan of the progress that we have been seeing along our waterfront as of late, then you understand the impact that the recently announced RiverWorks project would have on this city (see formations of project). By converting a former industrial site along the Buffalo River into a multi-plex recreational site, RiverWorks brings to the waterfront an unprecedented development opportunity that would have positive growth implications for generations to come.
Unfortunately the project has hit a snag. It appears as if three nearby corporations have expressed that they are concerned about RiverWorks and feel that the development would adversely impact their current operations. They have sent a message that they don’t want the RiverWorks project to move forward. The corporations feel that their operations would be adversely impacted specifically by the increased presence of auto and foot traffic. They are saying that by mixing commercial and industrial operations on Ganson Street and Michigan Avenue, there would be a negative impact on business operations.
This morning I spoke Doug Swift, one of the partners at RiverWorks, who told me that RiverWorks partners has been willing to work out reasonable issues that the companies have. In fact he already met with one of the parties, presented the entire scope of the project and offered them a seat at the table to work on a planning study being conducted that would examine potential infrastructure improvements to alleviate their concerns that focused primarily on safety and traffic issues. His intent was to include all neighborhood stakeholders to participate in this way.
Moving forward, Doug’s hope is that the public sees the benefit of converting this large tract of fallow land into a one-of-a-kind destination. If the public is onboard with RiverWorks, then that bodes well for the project. “We are really excited about this incredible waterfront opportunity,” Doug explained. “We think we’re creating a totally unique destination that will encourage community access to the Buffalo River. We will be featuring sports and athletic events, trade shows, beer gardens, boating, concerts and art projects, while retaining the industrial and historic aspects of the site. Ultimately we’ll be repurposing the grain silos by building a vertical brewery that will actually use a silo to store hops. There will be multiple levels open to the public for viewing the entire operation. We’re also excited about hosting our inaugural event this winter – the Labatt Pond Hockey Tournament. We will be constructing six mechanically refrigerated ice rinks for that purpose, and when the tournament is over we will convert the larger rink into adult hockey rinks and the smaller rink will be fashioned into five lanes of curling. There will be other athletic events in the summer, as we convert the rinks into covered areas for sports such as box lacrosse, roller hockey, indoor soccer, tennis and volleyball.
“On top of that we will be including 700′ of dockage for boating, which will become an instant Great Lakes’ destination for transient boaters who will arrive to view the spectacles. The 4000 person indoor concert facility will include glass garage doors that will roll up when it’s warm, patios galore, with a sand beer garden located inside the ruins of the former GLF grain facility. For those who prefer sand beach volleyball courts, we’ll have those too.
“This is a project that honors Buffalo’s historic industry, while at the same time celebrates our future industry… a commercial industry that can coexist with traditional industry. We will be building upon the investment that the public sector has been focusing on at the Inner Harbor, and along the Ohio Street corridor that leads to the Outer Harbor (among others). This will be Buffalo’s version of Chicago/San Antonio’s RiverWalks. We want to ensure that the Buffalo River is open to the public domain, and anticipate that our private sector investment sets an example for others to do the same. We will be transferring the right-of-way along the waterfront we control to be permanently placed in the public domain. This will do our part so that the public will have access to the waterfront in perpetuity. We hope the City will consider enacting legislation that requires any new development on both sides of the River to maintain public access.
“Out of the gate we expect to have 200 new employees. My partner, Earl Ketry, already employs 325 people who work at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, the Pan Am Grill and Brewery, etc… it’s a huge component that has made this project viable. Earl’s growing business demands mean that these significant investments into our city are possible. We have all of the puzzle pieces in place to turn this property into an instant waterfront destination. Already, we have requests for major events to book the complex that include ice time for guests. We’re creating a new market – a new product. There is no place anywhere else in Buffalo that can do what we are setting out to do. It will change the face of Buffalo forever, if we can all get on the same page to see this project to fruition.”
A Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9am at City Hall. RiverWorks proponents are hoping that people show up to voice their support for this project, in order to create yet another successful development at our waterfront. Already a number of parties have stepped forward to express their desire to see that the RiverWorks project does not end up sitting on a shelf alongside countless other major urban projects that never saw the light of day.