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After Bass Pro

July 31, 2010

Today is the day after the big announcement, Bass Pro is no longer interested in setting up shop on Canalside. I have mixed feelings about what we are seeing happening right in front of our eyes, but here are some thoughts I would like to share with you:

This is now the second time since I arrived to Buffalo that a major corporation spends about 1 million dollars in trying to develop a plan and implement it jointly with our authorities. The first was Opus East, America’s largest commercial developer, who up till they arrived to Buffalo, lured by a NFTA RFP, had never failed. The second is the this large retailer, who in other areas develops a mix of entertainment and retail, in some cases wildly successful, in some cases less so, apparently.

Why do these companies succeed in other areas and not in Buffalo?

How much is 1 million dollars for you? If it is OPM= Other Peoples Monies- the value of such an amount is probably not so much, I hear our elected officials talk about that amount all the time, but for a private company, it can sometimes mean the difference between being in existence or not. To face the reactions from Board members and their own banks, may create some strong internal fall outs, it may change the life’s of the people involved.

Does the failure have anything with our own Team Set Up?
Is there predictability? If I do A, will then B follow?
How does anyone make an inclusive development, making sure that all parties/ stakeholders are represented?

One thing that needs to be changed for sure is the policy to reject piecemeal development. Another is the notion that only one entity must be the Master Developer.

In my view, what is needed is a general plan, a consensus, guidelines, and an invitation to all qualified developers who each has something to bring to the table, joined by community groups, and then implementation.

To talk about a project for nine (9!) years just to see it disappear is pathetic. What kind of rules is creating this kind of monster bureaucracy?

This requires people skills, leadership, and of course funding. Other areas have done it, so why not Buffalo? Once again, my strongest recommendation is for a group of people from this area to visit Malmo. They did go through the whole process, during almost identical terms of demographics and environment.

I just read Buffalo News, and someone suggested we need to add more space for the Naval Museum towards the Outer Harbor. Why?

We need space for programs, programs that are water-dependent, we need to define how we want to live by the waterfront.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of an anchor tenant, if the design is appealing. Me personally strongly dislikes the suburban mall design, especially if its a historic theme desired. I suppose its practical and inexpensive, but that’s not what Canalside is about.

I feel disappointed, mostly over the fact that the energy of a project could not be sustained and made into something beneficial for all of us. Now at least, I hope our “Leadership” makes sure our monies stay here until we as a community decide what we want.

The cold reality is that we are facing a declining population, if it wasn’t for the fact that we have approx 1400 new refugees every years, our numbers would be even higher.

Having said that, we have many thousands of people who works downtown, and who complains about the lack of retail. Why is it so hard for decision makers to understand that small is beautiful, and you don’t have to plan for car parking in a City where you already have ~50% vacant land devoted for parking. When I saw that study it totally blow my mind. Use what you have better, they did a wonderful sustainable parking ramp in Santa Monica CA, where retail and commercial space was on the first floor.

Come on Buffalo, I expect you to come together, show us leadership, show us the way, and if you don’t know the way, get out of it and let others do it. There is a way, we know other areas have succeeded, so there is no reason for us not to do it. Build for recreation, history and heritage, focus on kids, the new economy, quality of life is not about the car. Its about people, about being close to your family, about being able to have traditions and feel safe.

In the outside world, the key words are green sustainability, less car dependence, fight poverty with education, living and creating short distance between schools and houses.

Mix ages, income, forget black and white, its all green!

Together we rise, together we sink, the choice is ours.

Capt Pierre Wallinder

One Comment leave one →
  1. Janice Wiles permalink
    January 28, 2012 2:36 pm

    Dear Captain, I came upon your blog post while looking for Junior Sailing Programs on the Great Lakes (I run one on Skaneateles Lake, Central NY). I am developing a more robust program that encourages the kids to recognize the importance of the water body and its quality and zero-waste in the program and in regattas. Do you have an email so we can communicate? Thank you. BTW, I liked your blog post on commercial development considerations. – Janice

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