Oh how we love silver bullet projects in this town…
I love the idea of Canal Side…the creation of a vibrant year round destination at the foot of Main Street in the B-lo.
But…WILL IT WORK?
Spending millions of our dollars on a plan without knowing it is going to work is so Buffalo.
It wasn’t too long ago that one of the principals involved with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) was telling us that the Crossroads Arena was going to the catalyst for redevelopment along lower Main. Now Larry Quinn is trying to convince us that Canal Side will work.
There are no pro-formas, no income expense statements, nothing that makes the stunning drawings and rhetoric seem real. Retailers — restaurant and other street-based business owners —require a steady, regular and daily clientele. None of them would ever considering locating (unless given generous subsidies) in a destination-driven location like the Canal District. Buffalo does not need, in the words of one of the architects, another “great spot.” We have more than enough of them already and most of them do not have the traffic they need to survive.
Given our demographic and economic realities, the development corporation’s plan cannot succeed. What if we do build it and nobody comes? The plan has no exit strategy — no way to mitigate the vast expenditure of public dollars, no way to reuse the buildings should their intended uses fail.
And that my friends is why we should be leery of it…building something and wanting it to succeed doesn’t mean it will.
I like the idea of having an overall development strategy for Canal Side, but development should happen organically.
The project has Buffalo FAIL in waiting written all over it. Will it fail? I don’t know know, but it seems we have been down this road before with other projects.