Final Project for Designing Cities | An IdeaBook by Leah MacVie
The Main Place Mall sits between two towers in Buffalo, NY. It was meant to be a space where people could connect and shop during the workday. It features a food court and retail spaces. The mall and towers are owned by the Main Place Liberty Group. Their Website still gives the appearance and hope that this space can continue to thrive under its former purpose.
Over the years, the mall has emptied, leaving very few stores in its wake. In their place, data centers have moved in, which is better than leaving the space empty completely. Buffalonians and visitors who visit the mall are sorely disappointed. It is unfortunate because there are many wonderful aspects to this space. These aspects include a parking ramp, skylit food court, unique interior architecture and a subway stop.
Recently, there has been renewed interest in revitalizing this space. While many would love to see this space live up to its original concept of a shopping mall, I argue that it is very unlikely such a space would thrive since there are few residences surrounding the property and the downtown area empties out after 5. Shopping has not and will not keep people downtown after work hours or bring people downtown on the weekend. I propose a system’s approach to repurposing this space to be multi-functional so that its facilities are taken advantage of day and night. My concept is called The Buffalo Learning District.
Main Place Mall Currently
The exterior of the Main Place Mall is desolate. It is a huge complex, taking up nearly a full city block. The outside facade lacks exciting signage, which makes it come off as a prison-like structure that screams at people to “Stay Away!”. On the Pearl Street side, there is very little green space, benches and entrances. Very few shops face the outside and mainly on the Main St. side.
The Interior is in great shape and features unique architectural components. The unique lamps, foliage, lighting, and railings make this a warm, inviting space- which is in contrast to the cold exterior. The photos reflect the use of this space at any time on a given day- vacant. Something different is needed to entice people to flock to this space.
Proposal: The Buffalo Learning District
I propose that the Main Place Mall would be better served as a multi-use faculty with spaces that can be used by multiple audiences at different parts of the day. These spaces would be rooted by the 6 main universities in the area: Canisius, UB, D’Youville, Buffalo State College, Daemen, and ECC. During the day, the facility would house charter, primary, and secondary schools, college hands-on learning spaces, and professional development spaces. In the evening, the facility spaces would flip for after-school care, family activities, and a personal enrichment center. Book shops, cafes, and bistros would invite students in to learn about their crafts and managing their businesses.
Co-work spaces would allow for entrepreneurship students to work alongside startups and professionals. For example, a kitchen that is run by a hospitality program during the day would flip for an adult cooking course at night. Classrooms used during the day by colleges would flip for a parenting presentation at night. Unfortunately, the two attached towers only house offices. However, an optional part of this proposal would be to turn some of the vacant floors into residential and hotel spaces. What I am proposing is really an ecosystem that continues to grow itself and is co-managed by passionate people.
I propose satellite locations for applicable college programs, such as professional development units or MBA programs, that could benefit from the location. The affiliated college banners would like Pearl St. (One example is Emerson College in Boston, MA.) Both the Pearl Street and Main Street lower level would be repurposed to invite book stores, cafes, bistros, and other businesses with outdoor seating. An adult learning center would also occupy the space. (One example is the Center for Adult Education in Boston, MA.)
The Interior would feature multi-use spaces for learning, coworking, and childcare. Furniture and group spaces would be moveable for different configurations. The inside space would be decorated with branded signage by the colleges and centers that occupy the space. Shops, bookstores, cafes, and bistros would still occupy the lower-level, but it is highly recommended that these spaces feature local entrepreneurs and businesses, versus large retail chains.
In conclusion, a multi-use facility would make for better use of the Main Place Mall. College guardians would drive the appropriate use of this space. Whether day or night, the spaces that occupy this facility would keep traffic moving, would create a space for community and, in essence, a new ecosystem.
IdeaBook by Leah MacVie | Final Project for Designing Cities