Author: Charles Gordon
No good or great city in the USA or the world would tolerate the current parking configuration at the Ellicott Street/Chippewa Street/Genesee intersection – five small inefficient, unsightly parking lots at that important location. NOTE: The large very efficient M&T surface lot is not part of this calculation.
The current condition inhibits desirable urban economic re-development within M & T Campus and the Flower District. One problem among many: the two primary M&T owned parcels currently provide almost 450 very economical surface parking spaces [out of about 600 if the other 4-5 small corner lots are included]. The current big M&T lot creates very convenient almost “front door” access for M & T employees. These surface lots also serve the surrounding businesses and district as a whole in off hours. As THE potential HUB block for the Flower District, most agree that increased density is desirable and inevitable for commercial and residential development. But how to manage the increased parking need?
The obvious solution is to build one or more likely Multiple new parking Facilities, while combining additional uses. When I worked summers in Boston in late 1960’s – during college – I worked near Post Office Square right down in Central Loop near Waterfront. But, the “park” outside our office building where I worked was a haphazard “mishmash” configuration with some surface parking – sort of a lame fountain – and lots of streets converging. Fast forward many many years – that location is now a beautiful park, with 6 levels of parking below — you would not even know the parking was there: 2 very inconspicuous parking access lanes around the perimeter are only giveaways.
Following are some other best use examples in mid-sized cities similar to Buffalo, across the USA, and in Europe too. Implementing a similar approach to upgrading Downtown with an enlightened parking strategy is certainly achievable but very challenging. Even forgetting individual private ownership of the several parcels, including the M&T parcels which provide almost 450 of the say 600 spaces in this immediate vicinity, there are other challenges.
The revenue stream from re-development must [more than] offset the additional premium construction costs for structured versus surface parking – likely at least a 10 to 1 ratio – say $ 20,000/space or more for structured parking versus $1,500-3,000/ surface space. One major consideration for parking facility economic viability is quantity of car parks/level. Parking experts typically maintain a facility should seek to attain minimum of 100/space/level for best efficiency.
Beyond that consideration, any new development must not only replace current M&T surface lot(s) capacity, but also address parking needs for new development. This requirement could be met with a 3 level facility on the as-envisioned reconfigured M&T block – 1 level below grade, 2 levels above grade, yielding total of 900-1000 spaces. The original Sabres arena parking facility, opened concurrently with arena in 1996, totals about 1,100 spaces (and was built for less than $7,000/space!)
Moreover, with any redevelopment scenario, the parking component has to account for associated costs of replacement parking and lost revenue during construction. But there is major upside with this particular location.
Parking attributes for M&T “Hub” block already include:
1. The 265’ W lot easily accommodates 4-62’ W standard parking bays – much more efficiently than the Webster Block, which has accommodated HarborCenter, while placing five levels on narrower less efficient frontage.
2. The enlarged M&T block footprint is inherently more efficient/economical for parking, than two smaller individual lots. This is especially true since the smaller block south of Chippewa has very inefficient trapezoidal footprint
3. The enlarged size of a single potential future M & T block could enable excellent critical mass for parking BOTH North and South of “Maureen’s Alley”- and can be built above and/or below grade – unlike Webster Block which only allowed for at or above grade parking.
4. Block size great for PHASED Implementation
Several other good potential parking footprints are located nearby – either existing surface parking lots or underused real estate with desirable parking layout footprints for structured parking.
Therefore, leaders should also explore other options beyond a single structure facility concentrated only on the M&T block. Parking experts may, instead of single facility, strongly urge dispersing parking into 2-3 new facilities with similar total parking counts.
To get this done, of course, requires collaboration – principally between the two biggest land owners: The City and M&T. Fortunately, these two entities own most of real estate critical to this Vision – as opposed to many, many smaller land owners, as often is the case.
Whatever option is ultimately chosen – either a single or multiple facilities – the overall Flower District/M&T Campus Vision would/MUST anticipate Phased Implementation to minimize disruption during construction.
Next: Maureen’s Alley and the “HUB block” North