We all have ideas about what Canalside should be, and what it needs (or doesn’t need). Over the years, many people have called upon the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) to build a permanent public market. We’ve even seen loose designs showing where a market might be positioned – under The Skyway for example. But in the end, the talks come, and the talks go, with nothing to come from the discussions or plans.
Now Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and New York State Assemblymember Sean Ryan are urging the ECHDC to move forward with an effort to bring a market to the waterfront.
“We have waterfront planning documents from 1998, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2013 that end up on a shelf collecting dust,” said Congressman Higgins. “For eight years now a large hole in the ground sits where much of the old Memorial Auditorium once stood. The most recent Canalside master plan, like its predecessors, calls for the creation of a public market destination. This is the right kind of development for Canalside, creating a destination that would feature Buffalo’s homegrown food offerings, bringing people together and building on the experiences available to downtown and Canalside visitors. We are calling on the corporation tasked with development to proceed swiftly with construction of the Canalside Hall Market.”
The Memorial Auditorium was vacated by 1996 and demolished in 2009. The Project Plan calls for construction of the Public Market on a section of the Aud block designated as “A1.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said “We have already spent a significant amount of time and money planning for the future of North Aud Block site. It’s time to put that planning into action and create a public marketplace for Canalside. The marketplace would complement what already exists, and would be a catalyst for future development and the establishment of a walkable Canalside neighborhood. We have the funding in place, and the plans are ready to go. The public marketplace will be a significant step forward for the New Buffalo, and ensure continued momentum for Buffalo’s waterfront.”
The 2013 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) includes a “Public Market,” also suggested in previous waterfront master plans as “Canalside Hall.” According to the plan: “The market is designed to embrace Buffalo’s rich “old” and “new” food culture. Local, regional foods, both prepared and raw, will be showcased at the market. It will also be designed to accommodate large events and private parties. Preliminary studies have been completed on the merchant mix and operations of the market. A draft merchant list includes a casual café, deli, wine bar, chocolate store, bakery, sausage and hot dog counter, diner, cookware store, brew pub, and ice cream shop.” (p. 11)
When people visit cities, more often than not, they expect to find a public market in the heart of the city. For years, there have been talks of a market coming, and many people have hoped that the DL&W Terminal would be the idea place to see one open (similar to St Lawrence Market in Toronto). But after all of the these years, nothing. Now there appears to be a significant push underway to locate the market on a section of the Aud block designated as “A1.” A month ago, Ryan sent a letter to the ECHDC, asking the chairman to “abandon support for a new train station at Canalside and proceed with construction of the public marketplace” (recommended in the Canalside Project Plan). We all know what happened shortly after that.
Higgins and Ryan are now calling on Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to embrace this opportunity to feature Western New York-centric food options at Canalside, follow through on the 2013 Project Plan and work swiftly to commit funding toward the construction of the envisioned Public Market.
Being proactive in getting a public market built, Higgins has been actively contacting local restaurateurs who have expressed an interest in being a part of the development. One would think that this would be a natural component of Canalside. Now that the train station is not a consideration for A1, can we do something with that land?