For years, one end of Canalside has been an enormous hole in the ground where the old Memorial Auditorium once stood. The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is looking for a plan for the site, probably involving residential space with underground parking.
When Canalside started, it was a large piece of property to fill in the shade of the Skyway. It is gradually filling up, most recently with the new Explore & More children's museum and Sinatra & Company ready to break ground for its Heritage Point housing.
ECHDC President Steve Ranalli said the focus is on residential development in a neighborhood. A Dutch consultant firm that is part of engineering giant Ty Lin International is on board and might need a year to put together a plan. Ranalli said there will be a significant amount of parking which won't be visible.
"Where you are going to drive down and from four sides see this big structure, standing alone on the North Aud Block," he said. "No, we're talking about integrating something into those lower levels, fronted with retail along the canals, right? As we get up to the street level, again active first floors and similar to a lot of the new buildings in town. Then you can place some of that structured parking between the first floor and some of the either office or residential above."
Ranalli said a key design goal is to make sure as many of the apartments as possible will look out at the water, not back at the elevated state Thruway.
A small number of citizens appeared at a public meeting Tuesday night to hear about design plans. Simon Husted knows what he does not want.
"The opposite of a parking lot," he said. "I want to go see what made this place special a century ago, which was a livable, work, live, play atmosphere all along the water. And I think that's what the North Aud Block could be. I think it should be the link between downtown and Canalside."
Several said it should be a neighborhood, not a shopping or tourist attraction, and the ECHDC agrees. Among them was Tim Tielman, executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture.
"Looking for something that is kind of neighborhood based, that has a lot of housing, some mixed use, very small retail, not something that's going to be, quote, destination retail, big development, fine-grained architecture, a real neighborhood, kind of to reestablish part of what was Buffalo's golden triangle."