Today is the second day of the week-long ULI study of the Buffalo Central Terminal. (ULI is the Urban Land Institute, commenter Lukia Costello would like us to remind you.) Today’s work will be a marathon series of meetings with 100+ stakeholders and other individuals and groups identified by the team and the local sponsors, the City of Buffalo and Empire State Development.
Monday evening, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (CTRC) held a reception at the Terminal for the team, local partners, stakeholders, and some media. Buffalo Rising’s Jessica Marinelli and I were there.
In addressing the gathering of a hundred or so, Mayor Byron Brown said that he had charged the team, at their Sunday kickoff dinner at Dnipro, to come up with something “big” for the Central Terminal. It’s hard to argue with that, especially when you’re hearing it in the Terminal’s cavernous concourse, one of Buffalo’s largest indoor spaces. The Mayor also talked about the scope of work for the study including the surrounding Broadway/Fillmore neighborhood. That jibes with reports Buffalo Rising has been hearing that, in the wake of the aftermath of the train station study that chose downtown over the Central Terminal as the primary intermodal hub, the Mayor pledged to not develop a plan for revitalizing the Terminal, but also the surrounding neighborhood. The Mayor also discussed that on WBEN Monday morning.
At the reception, principal ULI team members were introduced. The team, a dozen members in all, includes:
- Team leader Michael Stern (more below)
- Dan Anderton, community planner and landscape architect at Dewberry in Germantown, MD
- Ross Tilghman, president, Tilghman Group, Seattle
- Keith Bawolek, managing principal and chief executive officer, Vermillion Realty Advisors, Chicago
- Jennifer Ball, vice president, planning and economic development, Central Atlanta Progress
- Betsy del Monte, principal, Transform Global, Dallas
- Malaika Abernathy Scriven, Walter Reed project manager, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, Washington, DC
Although by profession a landscape architect, team leader Michael Stern has had a wide array of other experience, much of it in Pittsburgh, a rust-belt city that Buffalo often looks to for comparison. He told me that he worked on his first adaptive reuse project there a couple of decades ago. He has also done projects where creating or enhancing a sense of place is a core element, before the term “placemaking” took on its current common usage. In fact, his Jackson, Wyoming firm is named MAS Places.
At the reception, the team and its sponsors provided detailed information on the scope of study. It includes:
- From a market and neighborhood revitalization perspective, what would be the most appropriate and/or desirable mix of uses at the complex and estimated square footages/acreages?
- Given the scale and complexity of the complex, what is the logical sequence of next steps for Central Terminal?
- What would be the menu of options for financing?
- Given that transportation has played a critical role in the history of the complex, can future bus/rail public transit or passenger/freight rail programming serve as a useful tool in a redevelopment scheme?
- What would be the best means and methods of ensuring historic integrity is preserved in perpetuity?
- What types of residential uses might be a reasonable component of an adaptive reuse strategy?
Beyond the scope of the study, the reception also provided a glimpse into the thinking of local leaders of the City of Buffalo and Empire State Development, who are jointly funding the ULI study, as reported by News 4:
News 4 asked Mayor Brown what his vision for the Central Terminal is and he responded, “an amusement area, an area that people could come to go on rides, go to tour the architecture maybe, come to have their wedding, wedding reception.”
He also suggested it could be a hotel.
[Empire State Development Regional President Sam] Hoyt agrees the site should eventually be a public space.
That sounds like a very different vision from the development-heavy plan that was in the works for the Central Terminal until this spring, when the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation declined to renew the designated developer status of the team led by Canadian Developer Harry Stinson. In fact, Mayor Brown also told News 4 that “the decision to move on from Stinson as the developer helped trigger this study,” but that “Stinson could still be chosen for the project.”
Regarding Stinson’s continued involvement, CTRC’s Paul Lang told WBEN on Monday that there has been a rapprochement of sorts between his organization and the team still operating under the Stinson banner but consisting primarily of locals. They are involved in the ULI study as stakeholders, and were all present at Monday’s reception. Lang and the Stinson team have both said that they expect to respond to the RFP that is expected to come out some time after the ULI plan has been released and everyone has had the chance to digest and build on it.
Lang also said, about the work of the ULI team, that while it is critical, it will be “the tip of the iceberg.”