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Buffalo RiverWorks fights to keep its “temporary” Vinyl Outlet sign

Buffalo RiverWorks is speaking up about some public backlash that it has received over the addition of a new “temporary” Vinyl Outlet sign that has been adhered to one of its abandoned grain elevators. Josh Ketry, Director of Operations at Pearl Street Family of Companies, has started a petition asking the community to support the ongoing efforts of RiverWorks, and to preserve the hulking structures, which, he says, is part of the vibrancy of the site.

In a recent email, he explained that the new Vinyl Outlet signage is strategically in place to preserve the structure, while protecting visitors to the site from being struck by debris. The petition reads:

The Vinyl Outlet has chosen to invest in the Buffalo Riverworks restoration and repurposing of the historic Grain Elevator Silos by putting up a temporary mesh sign that acts as a barrier for helping stop chunks of the silo from falling off and hitting patrons.  Without this revenue stream, buildings like this would be demolished and their history erased forever.

Ketry went on to say that the signage also fortifies RiverWorks with funds needed to continue to develop the waterfront destination. He referred to those calling for the removal of the signage as “obstructionists” who are simply out to stop progress. He also pointed to thriving commercial districts around the world that were known for their larger-than-life signs, including Buffalo back in its heyday. The petition explains:

Previously, we found a clever partnership to help us restore and repurpose a grain silo now known as the Labatt Blue Six-pack. It is the only successful reuse of a grain elevator in the City of Buffalo thus far. This move received national and worldwide positive attention and has assisted Buffalo in becoming a great tourist destination. Visit Buffalo Niagara has Riverworks listed as one of the top premier destinations in all of greater WNY.

A litany of positive changes, company assets, and positive contributing factors were spelled out thusly:

  • Riverworks has created 100’s of jobs and an iconic skyline on what used to be a polluted rubble pile.  It is the #2 most hashtagged place in WNY after Niagara Falls.
  • Our Company has invested over $75 million of “PRIVATE”- not public – money into downtown Buffalo since ’97 between Pearl Street, Lafayette, and Riverworks, including a huge percent into the hulking behemoths known as the GLF grain silos.  As part of our continuing plan we are committed to tens of millions more into the restoration and economic viability of the forgotten properties.
  • Created 600 Jobs between companies
  • Our company was founded by people who grew up poor on Buffalo’s East side. People who worked at Bethlehem Steel.  People in the iron workers’ union. People who went to high school and college right here in Buffalo. We are not outsiders – in fact most of the total profits we have made throughout our entire history have been reinvested back into Buffalo.  You will never see the ownership here showing up in fancy cars, or taking expensive trips, or buying lavish homes.  Instead, they continuously commit to reinvesting and taking massive risks on properties that were all but forgotten.
  • Signage on buildings is a huge part of Buffalo’s History.  Look at any photo from the heyday of Buffalo and you will see signage and signs of life around the booming town.
  • We try to look at Buffalo through a national and international lens.  What do we have here that will make people from outside the area want to come here?  And how can we amplify that and make it more appealing?   How can we make people want to spend a day here?  Spend a week here?  Our vision is to create something like Buffalo’s own version of the Navy Pier, or even an industrial DISNEY.
  • We understand the trepidation of commercialization.  But everything we do in terms of advertising is always temporary.  It is mesh cloth, labels, or nuts and bolts.  It is easily removed.  The historic structures are always refurbished as a result.
  • We just completed $250,000 in emergency repairs to keep the GLF grain silo safe from future demo.
  • Covid-19 has created many new financial hurdles that need to be overcome, especially for restaurants and entertainment facilities. We have to be creative to continue progressing.
  • Riverworks is competing with several tax free entities within 1000 feet of Riverworks (Casino, Riverfest Park) across the river, some of which apparently don’t need to follow the Green Code.
  • Many of the naysayers have ties to City Hall and to competing entities
  • Did you know?  We have incurred several hundred percent increases in property taxes in 2020 for the GLF grain silo complex.
  • Riverworks has become the go to place for large scale charitable events raising tens of thousands of dollars for important fundraisers monthly.
  • Riverworks is a world class destination location for entertainment, tourism, adventure and waterfront gatherings. We hosted over 1.2 million visitors in 2019.
  • The City has created hardships that force Riverworks to operate at a major disadvantage:  EXAMPLES: Michigan Street Bridge emergency closure without any heads up from Councilman Scanlon. Condition of Ganson Street and maintenance neglect.  Electrical infrastructure that continues to lose power several times a year, Ohio Street Bridge to close in November for 18 months.
  • One of the plans for 2020 and beyond is to install the “BUFFAL-O” – a brand new massive Ferris Wheel on the Wharf at Riverworks – which should be running by spring of next year.   The panoramic views, Lake Erie sunsets, and cityscapes from the top will add to the already dynamic and picturesque skyline.  Our goal is to make the “O” the exclamation point of Buffalo!

Ketry feels that the company’s track record speaks for itself. Therefore, he is looking for support pertaining to the ongoing rebuilding of the RiverWorks site, and others along the Buffalo River. His goal is to “Keep Buffalo Weird”, akin to how other cities have fought to retain their unique flavor that comes in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and colors.

To view the petition, click here.

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.

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