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Buffalo Grain Elevator National Park

After proposing that the Central Terminal be transitioned into an Artplex, the Adam Sokol architecture team (asap) has come up with another fascinating idea in an entirely different part of the city. Sokol and his team feel that Buffalo’s grain elevators should be bestowed National Park status. The enhanced recognition would be a tourism draw that would help to secure a promising future for the lands surrounding the Buffalo River. This latest proposal is part of the firm’s 202020 project. 

Asap feels that there is an opportunity at hand, to recognize Buffalo’s cluster of grain elevators as a collection. The team notes that “Elevator Alley” is the densest collection of concrete grain elevators in the world. By building a series of walkways and bridges, thus connecting the elevators, an international tourist attraction would be the result.

In order to advance the initiative, the hulking elevators would have to be made “people friendly”, by removing debris, thus making them safe to tour. Asap refers to other national historic parks to make its case that the elevators would become tourist attractions, if certain measures were taken to showcase them in a different light. Mill City Museum in Minneapolis is an excellent example of what steps to take. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is another good example.

Asap has included various other popular (formerly industrial) tourist destinations in this proposal. They have also pointed to various other projects, such as the Warming Huts along Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg, as best practice models from which to draw inspiration. A number of these visionary projects have been featured on BRO over the years.

These are great exercises, which help us to understand what’s possible when it comes to our industrial heritage. For years, the city’s silos and elevators were viewed as eyesores. These days, people are looking at them as assets that could help shape the future of Buffalo.

“202020 is asap’s urbanism think tank, created with a mission to tackle challenging urban problems by collecting and distilling data so as to generate fresh conclusions unfettered by conventional thinking and received wisdom. These data are leveraged to produce proposals that are concise, efficient, strategic, practical, but also visionary, consistently maintaining a high level of graphic quality, design excellence, and precision. We seek to challenge the prevailing decline of urbanism as a practice in the US with compelling proposals for proactive, problem-solving leadership in both the public and private sectors.” – asap

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • Ra Cha Cha

    I love this proposal. It’s a good reason why we should be very thoughtful about what happens next with the former scrapyard site next to Silo City, which represents a key cultural, recreational, and ecological link between Silo City and the giant grain elevators (and Concrete Central Peninsula) immediately upriver.

    A year or so ago, Buffalo Rising and I were part of the effort to keep a new scrapyard operation from taking over that site (see article linked below). Now it’s incumbent on us to do some thoughtful land use planning for that site, to help make sure the right thing happens with it, and the wrong thing does not.

  • BuildBuffalo

    I guess it’s better than nothing.

  • 300miles

    The rendering shows ice-skating on the Buffalo River. That could be really cool, but I don’t know how safe that would be, or how realistic the idea is. Does the river surface freeze deep enough to make that possible?

    • OldFirstWard

      I saw that too. No it does not freeze. I guess he didn’t do his homework.

  • Ken

    Who currently owns the Silo’s, that are part of Silo City. One entity, or several individual owners just sitting on them, waiting for the right offer to come their way…$$$ ??

    • OldFirstWard

      Rick Smith owns two or three of them. I think he paid $120,000 for the land and grain elevator complexes on it. I believe Smith sold the large elevator to an investment firm back when he was touting that ethanol plant project that eventually failed.

    • Louis Tully

      Rick Smith is a terrific Buffalonian. Should google him and his story with Silo City, and in general. Fascinating story and fantastic steward for the properties.

      He’s been featured numerous times by different sources; and he was even in a book that told his and Silo City’s story. I believe it was Grain Dust Dreams, by David Tarbet. It’s available through the library. I can’t find it in the book’s preview but there’s a line in it from him about the future of the silos where he says something along the lines of he’s not sure what the vision is for the complex or their future, he’s just hoping to leave it better than he got it. Paraphrasing, of course. And I believe he’s doing, and will continue to do, just that.

  • Bludog

    cool idea

  • Alex Morris

    For inspiration, look at what the City of Bethlehem, PA did at SteelStacks.


  • Captain Planet

    It would be pretty awesome to plant a massive amount of milkweed and wildflowers around this site, and designate it a Monarch butterfly sanctuary/way station. Perhaps a Monarch festival in early September, when they typically pass through WNY en route to Mexico…

  • The first artist rendering at the top of the page is a little weird. Why is the grass overgrown to look like fields (eg: vernment magnet). Why are the 2 ladies running when they are just 20 feet from the building on the left? Are they trying to race each other to the other side?

    • Davvid

      Its a conceptual collage. You’re being too literal.

      • May be conceptual… but I don’t understand the overgrown grass. At least make it look like a putting green.

  • Andy Wulf

    I’d rather the grain elevators be refurbished and repurposed (as we’re already beginning to see happen at Silo City and Riverworks) than simply preserved as empty ruins. I fear a National Park designation would preclude that.

    • grovercleveland

      People here hate commerce.

    • eagercolin

      A national park would be more valuable to the city than almost any imaginable repurposing.

    • Davvid

      The silos in their raw state are more beautiful than any condo or hotel in Buffalo.

    • BuildBuffalo

      I wish they would knock them down but this is better than nothing I guess

  • Mariann Caprino

    Simply brilliant!

  • mightyNiagara


  • kfy321

    Why not? Scranton, Pa has had Steamtown National Park with their railroad heritage and Erie-Lackawnna roundhouse.

  • Michael Dumass

    A new National Park at a time when our President wants to reduce the number of National Parks? Might need to wait 4 years.