A Letter to Buffalo Canal Side Bloggers

Erie Canal SlipCan we take a a timeout from all the bickering about aesthetics and urbanism and preservation and start a conversation about how to help resolve Buffalo’s biggest problem: the freakin’ lack of a tax base? How much time is going to be spent trying to pick apart each others’ Canal Side positions, while vacant waterfront land just sits there generating nothing? Go on, keep up the infighting, and while we’re at it, throw in a couple more lawsuits so we can slow the process down even more.

Instead of 1860’s preservation, let’s talk 1910’s preservation. Put in a chemical plant, an oil refinery, a tire factor, a brewery or a coal-burning power station on the waterfront. After all, 100 years ago that’s what we had all up and down the river and, by God, Buffalo had the largest number of millionaires per capita in the U.S! So what if the water was polluted and the city smelled; the money that flowed allowed the city to create its fantastic parks and mansion district. We knowingly sacrificed Buffalo Creek and the Niagara River for the beauty of the central city and the Broadway Terminal.

Or how about sealing off the waterfront from the public and turning the area entirely into high-priced condos? After all, we need more people downtown anyway, and we all know that each of those condos will put a few thou’ in the city’s coffers each and ever year. And there won’t be much risk then of big-business pullout, will there?

Screw the expensive non-tax-generating cobblestone streets and put up a mall; a really big upscale mall. With pricey stores that will attract lots of outsiders. And a solid glass wall that faces the waterfront so we can all watch the winter storms roll in from the comfort of a warm atrium. Those stores will generate revenue for the city, too. As will the 5-story parking ramps peppered here and there. And we’ll be able to enjoy a mall year-round!

Okay, my last remark is a little overboard. But my point is that pretty parks, cobblestone streets, river walkways and a canal to nowhere do not, and will not, help pull the city out of its financial funk. To do that we need a cohesive understanding of the financial value that variations of Canal Side can realize. And so far, virtually none of the arguments in various local blogs, or the bloggers themselves, seem to be willing to blog about this. If anyone can point me to articles that describe which of the plans will best improve the city’s tax base, and why that is so, I would really appreciate it.

If you really want to argue about something, argue about why there hasn’t been more discussion and desire to accelerate development of the Outer Harbor, where the condos and retail can be really built up. There should be more discussion about the area around Canal Side, and whether or not its development plan will lead to a financially vibrant area. There should be discussion of the Outer Harbor Lift Bridge, discussion about whether all of these ideas should be consolidated into a single plan or whether building them piecemeal is worth the gamble that they will ever be funded. Because I don’t believe that any of them will survive without the others. Where are those articles, and some constructive comments about the integration of all these elements?

In and of itself, Canal Side is not going to ever be a panacea regardless of what’s currently planned to be put on it. Let’s get passionate about the growth around Canal Side and maybe then our commentary will lead to more than vitriole.

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