Urbanist Tim Tielman (Campaign for Greater Buffalo) recently came up with a more comprehensive vision/site plan for Canalside. The plan shows building density that helps to create a sense of place, with commercial and residential components. It also pays homage to the styles of buildings that once stood at this site in one instance, while creating more a contemporary setting in another. Tielman incorporated views of the water whenever possible, outdoor piazza style café settings, and even an intermodal aspect to the plan.
The church-looking tower is reminiscent of many of the church towers that can still be found throughout the city today, and even others that were demolished at the waterfront. The wharf-style buildings recall the days when the waterfront was bustling with activity. Natural courtyard settings are created by placing the buildings in key parcels, thus humanizing the spaces. There is also protection from the elements during the colder months, that would become desirable places to live and visit.
This is the type of infill that we need to see at Canalside. It’s what was meant to be there all along. The plan has a great urban feel, and would surely draw in shops and restaurants that would line the streets creating a shopping destination. Plus, with residential on the upper floors, a real neighborhood would be created, not just a place for sightseers. There’s even a flat iron-ish building present, which adds a style of building no longer present in Buffalo.
The buildings all leave plenty of room to interact with the canal waters. The buildings and courtyards are all interconnected with pedestrian bridges and walkways. And the intermodal station is located right along Main Street, which is perfectly situated to accommodate the Metro Rail traffic and bus passengers.
Tielman says that the land in question is owned/operated by The City, The State and the BMHA. All three would have to work together to create the vision. The children’s museum is incorporated into the site, and Tielman is even proposing that the carousel be positioned at the top of the museum. The two could work in tandem – it would free up land, save money, create a more year round destination, and allow the two to combine resources.
Tim says that by using timeless materials and creating a humanized scale, this waterfront destination would never get old. It would always feel natural, not like it was built as a short term amusement space. Ultimately, he would like to see seamless connectivity with Shelton Square (heart of the city), which once existed. He notes that Joseph Ellicott was a genius in the way that he created the street grid, and we must respect his plan. He’s even changing his tune about The Skyway – he feels that by removing it, along with off-ramps and interchanges. He feels that the natural bed of the Erie Canal could be extended, and more land could be freed up to continue to build upon this vision.
Tielman is the guy who set up the site plan for Larkin Square. In that instance, he set out to create a place where people could interact on a more intimate basis. He wants the same thing for the Inner Harbor. There would be smaller gathering places at the Inner Harbor on much more humanized parameters. And for those who feel that there should be more public space (like it is right now with open lawns and concerts), he points to the Outer Harbor as an offering. By continuing to develop the Inner Harbor, the added development should help to subsidize the open outdoor recreational land at the Out Harbor. Tielman is pushing for a ferry baot (every five minutes) between the Inner and Outer Harbors to enhance the connectivity.
The plan that you see here has been in the works for the last two years. It is independent of any current discussions regarding the future of the Amtrak Station. Tielman has been in discussions with myriad parties regarding the plan. “It goes beyond the 2004 Master Plan,” he told me. “We need a cohesive vision, not just a jumble of mishmashed buildings that people would get tired of. This could even be a template for other neighborhoods. We need to bring back the Nexus that existed 100 years ago.”
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