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Downtown Buffalo Convention Center Alternative

Missed Opportunity with Buffalo Convention Center Proposal

Could the DL&W Terminal be a possible location for the new Convention Center? One Buffalo Rising reader feels that it’s the perfect site, by incorporating the existing terminal with myriad other Cobblestone District attributes. The site is accessible by Metro Rail, has a waterfront component, is within walking distance to Canalside and RiverWorks, and even calls for the rebuilding of a demolished train station. It can even be connected to Key Bank Center arena. While there might be some issues to deal with, to make this plan work, it does present an interesting scenario that incorporates this city’s historic waterfront terminal building together with a bold vision to rebuild the demolished terminal station. Altogether it’s a malleable footprint for the Convention Center that has not been given fair consideration. The overarching vision might be a far stretch, but there are some components that are worth discussing.

After seeing the proposed alternatives for the Convention Center, I knew I had to speak up given my distaste for the two sites.  I’ve seen too many other successful Convention Centers across the country to not speak up.” – DE.

Here’s his pitch:

Restore and Redevelop the DL&W Terminal and 164 Ohio Street (NFTA) for a new Waterfront Convention Center

  • Buffalo must consider an alternative site for their new Convention Center that currently is not under consideration, but is right under our noses
  • The proposal involves a combination of both a ground-up development and repurposing of the DL&W Terminal to create new facility to remain competitive in the convention business

Restore and Redevelop the DL&W Terminal and 164 Ohio Street (NFTA) for a new Waterfront Convention Center

New Convention Center: 

  • Build new multi-floor state of the art 200-300K exhibit floor where 164 Ohio Street currently stands (orange/tan)
  • Repurpose 75K sf 2nd floor of DL&W Terminal for breaking/meeting rooms (grey/yellow)
  • Activate 1st floor with South Park fronting retail and more meeting spaces if needed
  • Rebuild demolished DL&W passenger building as Convention Center Main Entrance, ballroom, concessions, restaurants, etc. (light blue)
  • Create 2nd entrance, drop off area, and freight entrance at Michigan and South Park (purple)

Other Developments

  • Private Hotel Developments (red)
  • Mixed use low/mid-rise Canal Era residential and retail (blue)
  • New public park and/or square to serve as central meeting space and hold events/concerts (green)
  • Extend Illinois and Columbus street (grey)
  • Create Convention Center light rail stop beneath DL&W Terminal

Rebuild DL&W Terminal “Passenger Building”

  • To build in accordance to the original plans
  • New usage to include 30,000 sf ballroom on the 3rd floor overlooking the Buffalo River, concessions, retail, restaurants, and main entrance to Convention Center

Best Alternative for New Buffalo Convention Center & Cobblestone District

Cobblestone District Master Plan with Waterfront Convention Center

Suggested developments key:

  1. Extend Columbia and Illinois Streets to Scott Street (pink)
  2. Create new signature park between Perry and Scott, and Columbia and Illinois – this will be a new epicenter for the area and play host to concerts, events, and overall provide some much needed central greenery. For example, Bryant Park and Washington Square Park in NYC (green)
  3. Three high end mid-rise developments (hotel and residential) fronting Scott Street and overlooking park. People want to live and spend time near parks (blue)
  4. Low rise Canal era developments between South Park and Perry Streets. This will be the new hub for residential, retail, and entertainment (orange)
  5. Private hotel development east of Michigan Avenue (red)
  6. New Convention Center developed with DL&W Terminal (yellow)

Convention Center (see map below)

Demolish/reconfigure 164 Ohio Street and small portion of DL&W Terminal to build new main exhibit hall for Convention Center (A) | Building A: 200-300K sf of new state of the art construction

Expand DL&W Terminal to be flush with South Park Avenue and add an additional story to serve as ballroom and breakout/meeting areas (B) | Currently available – 74,875 sf 2nd floor and 57,662 sf of available outdoor space overlooking Buffalo River – 132,537 sf total

New drop off area and pedestrian plaza at foot of Main Street (purple)

A new Convention Center along South Park Avenue and the Buffalo River allows the City to create a harmonious relationship between the Cobblestone District and the HSBC Atrium/Buffalo News lot. It also allows for continued development at Canalside by relocating today’s events and concerts to a newly created park along Perry Street.

San Diego Convention Center & Gaslamp District

Example: Waterfront Convention Center model should be replicated in Buffalo

  • An excellent example of Waterfront Convention Center that complements the adjacent Gaslamp District, without eating up precious central land that the proposed HSBC Buffalo Convention Center would do
  • The Gaslamp District is an extremely pedestrian friendly neighborhood that promotes walkability
  • The hotels serve a purpose for convention attendees, baseball fans, and people who want to stay in a young, energetic part of town with lots of things to do within walking distance

Comparing Footprints of Proposed HSBC Lot vs South Park Avenue Location

Comparing Footprints of Proposed HSBC Lot vs DL&W + 164 Ohio Street Footprint

The proposed HSBC Atrium Convention Center footprint does not vary much in size if 164 Ohio Street and a small portion of the DL&W Terminal were to be reconfigured/demolished. This new building would be mostly used as the main Exhibit Floor

Existing DL&W Terminal would be restored, and possibly built upon for breakout/meeting areas, ballroom, and Main entrance off the foot of Main Street

Examples of Successful Urban Parks in the US

A new park or public plaza along Perry Street will act as a focal point for Downtown activities

Examples of successful Public Squares

A new park or public plaza along Perry Street will as a focal point for Downtown Buffalo activities

  • “City planners are increasingly realizing that investment in public spaces, many neglected for decades, can provide a competitive edge in luring new businesses and residents—especially young creative types—to the urban core”
  • Public Squares not only bring economic rewards but offer people a comfortable spot to gather for social, cultural, and political activities
  • Public Squares are the pulsing heart of a community and foster true urban sustainability
  • Catalyze private investment and foster grassroots entrepreneurial activities
  • Nurture identity, encourage volunteerism, and highlight a community’s unique values
  • Draw a diverse population and serve as a city’s “common ground”

Current problems with existing DL&W Terminal

  • Pedestrians feel safer when they find their walks more interesting, engaging with street level windows with shops
  • South Park Avenue – Tall fencing, blank brick walls, and empty parking lots can feel dangerous at night
  • Zero street presence
  • Unattractive fencing creates false sense of danger area – discourages pedestrian access to the waterfront
  • Underutilized prime waterfront land currently used as parking and storage by the MTA

Pros and cons of the DL&W Terminal Site


Brand new Exhibit Floor area which will allow Buffalo to accommodate much larger conventions under a new roof

Preserves the centralized HSBC/Buffalo News lot for prime development and possibly a new park or public square

Repurposes the historic but underutilized DL&W Terminal for meetings and breakout areas.

Possibility of including South Park fronting retail at DL&W to bring life to the street


City already has a proposed a new light rail station at DL&W Terminal.

Can a new station be included with the building of a Convention Center?

2nd Floor of DL&W may not layout efficiently for breakout rooms – could a 3rd floor be added to DL&W Terminal?

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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