I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve walked into a business in Buffalo and noticed a photo of Shelton Square (now the Main Place Mall) hanging on the wall. Even more distress than demolishing the Larkin Administration building (in my opinion), the loss of Shelton Square (see here) could be the city’s biggest blunder when it comes to razing its architectural assets.
I’m not exactly sure why I decided to do it, but a few days ago I walked down Pearl Street to check out the back side of the Main Place Mall (the building’s rear end). Most often, when I refer to the opportunities of the mall, I am referring to the Main Street side, but when it comes right down to it, the Pearl Street side is even more painful. It’s as if a lesson in bad urban planning was left behind, in order to remind us what not to do when rebuilding our city.
To make matters worse, just down the street (still on Pearl Street), we are subjected to the rear end of the Convention Center.
It’s hard to think that there could be something worse than the back side of the Main Place Mall, but there it is… the most brutalist building that exits in the world (at least the back side of the building). No windows. No accessible doors. No art. Nothing. Just a blank wall that stretches for what seems like forever. The two buildings could be sister buildings except for the difference in materials.
Over the weekend I received an email from DHH, who had this to say about the Main Place Mall:
This is a somewhat radical suggestion. I notice there is a petition for retail back in Main Place Mall (see here). My suggestion is to implode Main Place a la Las Vegas and start from scratch. When you see old pictures of what was there before (i.e. Shelton Square) OMG! It was criminal to have demolished that building in the first place. It was replaced with a Wal-Mart monstrosity. Just imagine what a developer like Rocco Termini who has an appreciation for historic architecture could have done with it. I say demolish Main Place, start from scratch and put it out to the highest bidder with Buffalo’s architectural heritage in mind.
Yes, that is a radical suggestion, but if we are to examine all possibilities when it comes to the Main Place Mall and the Convention Center, we need to consider every angle. Unfortunately, I don’t see the demolition of either of these monstrosities occurring any time soon. That doesn’t meant that there can’t be radical ways to re-skin the Pearl Street sides of these buildings.
I suggest holding a competition that would bring together the who’s who of the design and architecture world to reexamine what we can do with these blunders. Pearl Street has been cursed with two large scale emotionless walls. If anything, these walls should be considered blank slates that we can use to our advantage, at least until the time comes that these buildings share the same fate as Shelton Square.