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Neat Models Don’t Equal Canal Side Progress

by on October 21, 2009

Tell us when Bass Pro opens. 


We don’t want updates, timelines, projections, limp promises, or press conferences based on optimistic speculation.  Local news outlets should refuse to mention the hypothetical downtown retailer in any dispatch that doesn’t include the words “doors opened.”  Instead, the press is once again informing us that we’ll have ample good reason to bring our money near the water downtown before this century expires:


If you’ve been trying to picture what Buffalo’s inner harbor will look like when it’s up and running here’s the vision.


It’s a vision that connects downtown Buffalo to its waterfront. A waterfront filled with activities for all seasons, using more than a million square feet on 20 acres known as Canal Side.


And we are so going to appreciate the group’s stupendous efforts, at least according to the same group’s leader:


“People are going to have their mouths wide open and they’re going to be in awe of understanding the history of this region and how we’ve basically brought it back for this community to enjoy,” said Erie Canal Harbor Development Chairman Jordan Levy.


There’s something to be said for modesty.  Unfortunately, Levy isn’t saying it.  Even worse, his act is mostly talk.  Despite indications of progress at the canal site, constantly-pitched claims that a retail-centered utopia is on its way don’t correspond to the location’s status.


On top of that, we’re funding their efforts.  Who’s paying for the sluggish development?  Do you need to ask?


Buffalo’s remarkable waterfront doesn’t need help.  With a better commercial atmosphere, we’d already be buying what merchants would be happily selling on the property.  The city and state can only get in the way.  That’s not mere theory: the area’s barrenness over the past decades despite governmental planning shows that their solution is actually the problem.


Buffalonians have come to regard Bass Pro, whose entire outdoor empire seems to be predicated upon government subsidies and empty promises, as a concern run by outdoorsy scoundrels.  That said, the company is only dancing with their date.


As for Bass Pro’s partner, the development group’s members are still confused why they’re eternally struggling to attract people and stores to what should be a desired locale.  But the problem’s root is the citizen-funded struggle itself.  New York is the perfect example of what happens when public entities take money out of the economy to attract economic investment.  The result is a long-vacant canal area where progress isn’t precisely measured with a stopwatch.


We should be spending money at retailers that opened voluntarily.  Instead, the state takes what’s ours and spends it in a baffling attempt to draw consequentially reluctant stores.  The effort is as dawdling as it is shaky.  If you believe it will work this time, the developers have some Bass Pro gift cards for you to buy.


Still, the Harbor Development Corporation has gotten proficient in one area: they’re really good at updating project statuses to the media.  Plus, those physical and computer mock-ups of what the area enclosing the Skyway always look nice.  The vibrant, character-laden scenes would be welcome in any city.  It’s too bad that their attention on virtual details hasn’t translated into a knack for implementing the real big picture.  That’s why their proposed improvements are still largely, frustratingly imaginary.

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