Plan envisions bustling neighborhood in Canal District

Dec 19, 2016

Could downtown’s Canal District become Buffalo's next hot residential community?

A group is urging planners to peer into the waterfront's past as it continues to chart its future.

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture unveiled a blueprint over the weekend

Credit The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture

that envisions a bustling neighborhood and transportation mecca  in and around Canalside. It recommends constructing more than 30 structures in the Canal District, along with a train and bus station.

Executive Director Tim Tielman told WBFO residential development is a key element of a plan. Up to 270 units apartments would be built.

““It’s a huge component, because if people don’t like

Credit The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture

living in a place, not amount of festivities can’t hide that fact.”

The proposal also calls for buildings that would accommodate up to 110 fairly small commercial spaces.

The plan is called "Nexus," a word that means connection. Tielman said the train and bus station would aim  to capitalize on a local legacy.

““Buffalo historically was the place where people met, whether they came by train, by canal boat, by trolley.

Credit The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture

And that’s what made Buffalo successful.”

Tielman presented his vision Saturday to a group that gathered in the auditorium of the Central Library. The first question that was asked: what would happen to large-scale events such as summer concerts that  have lured thousands of people to Canalside each week? Tielman replied that there are other venues that could accommodate such events, including the Outer Harbor.

“There’s no spot for  concerts of thousands of  people on Elmwood Avenue or on Hertel Avenue. It’s a very good use interim, but that thing is a movable feast,” Tielman later told WBFO.

He noted that before Canal Side became a destination, concerts were staged successfully in other downtown locations, including Lafayette Square and LaSalle Park.

“People will show up if you give them a good band and cheap beer. It’s a movable feast. But what’s not movable is a neighborhood, and that’s what we’re trying to build,” he said.

Credit The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture

While Tielman’s group has no direct decision-making powers, he expressed confidence that there will be buy-in by waterfront planners, who have already cited the importance of promoting residential development. Tielman added that public input has helped shape waterfront development, including plans for the Central Wharf.

WBFO asked Congressman Brian Higgins about the group's plan. The Buffalo Democrat has been a key player in waterfront development, said Tielman's plan deserves study. But Higgins cautioned planners about trying  to "jam too many things," adding that the area is in need of better infrastructure. Higgins believes new housing should be pursued in the area surrounding Canalside. He's also proposing that any new train station be developed at the Central Terminal, noting the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood is only minutes from downtown Buffalo.