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the Crossroads Project / an Investment in Buffalo’s Past and Future

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium / the Aud

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

Something I’ve been working on recently brought to mind the original name of what is now the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo. When the project was first announced and throughout the funding and construction phases, the new arena to replace Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was known as Crossroads Arena.

I was only about twelve at the time, but thought that was an pretty awesome name. I don’t think I was alone, in fact, I think just about the entire city thought that sounded great. The name followed its purpose, as this nearly 20,000 seat arena has hosted everything from hockey, lacrosse, arena football, soccer, to concerts, college basketball and professional wrestling.

                Of course, then everyone’s heart was broken with the naming rights inevitably sold off and Crossroads Arena was suddenly Marine Midland Arena. Which was, you know… lame. Apparently people in Buffalo don’t swear enough so in 2011 First Niagara acquired the naming rights and we were given the ‘effin center’. But until then it was most commonly known as the Arena. The Aud, the Arena, the Ralph. We do what we want.

                This was the first major sports complex built in New York State in 20 years and more than half of the $127 million bill was secured from private sources, the rest coming from city, county and state sources. It took several years to get the project off the ground during which time the Sabres’ owner Seymour Knox III had to threaten the sale or relocation of the franchise.

                In an article from June 1995 I came across the line, “Local and state officials hope that Crossroads Arena will act as a catalyst for the long-awaited rebirth of the Buffalo Waterfront.” Well, it’s taken nearly twenty years but it seems that hope is finally coming to fruition with the almost continuous announcements of projects and proposals in the downtown area focused on rebuilding the waterfront. The HarborCenter project, with two ice rinks, training facility, indoor parking, a 205-room hotel and other restaurant and retail space, is currently under construction on Webster, adjacent to the arena. Canalside and the Commercial Slip has been gaining ground since 2009 in rebuilding portions of the canal system that made the city an industrial hub. With concert series, festival and its weekly Saturday Artisan Market, as well as the Military & Naval Park and Liberty Hound restaurant, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has been steadily revitalizing the area.

 Crossroads Arena               So maybe the name has changed, from Marine Midland to HSBC to First Niagara, but the idea behind the arena is still there. It was called the Crossroads Project before any other name, and while that may initially have simply meant a single location for large sporting and entertainment events in the city, its presence in downtown Buffalo has made it a crossroads of something much more. With the construction of HarborCenter and the rebuilding of the Commercial Slip, the arena has anchored the crossroads of Buffalo’s past and future. It may have changed names and it may have taken almost twenty years, but the investment in Crossroads Arena seems to finally be paying off.


Buffalo Mayor Asks the Transit Authority for Help with His Homework

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

Douglas Adams once said, “I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” and this is a sentiment apparently shared by those holding the fate of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor in their hands.

Buffalo Outer Harbor

Buffalo Outer Harbor

I’m a little confused about this article, perhaps I should start there.  If I remember correctly, the deadline for proposals by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo was September28th.  But according to YNN, the NFTA is still asking for these proposals as of October 12th.

The stumbling block, it seems, is that neither the city nor the ECHDC feels they should have to pay for the property.  This is over 400 acres of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor we’re talking about, but both Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown expect the NFTA to simply hand over the property to one of the two entities free and clear.  Which entity will ultimately gain control will be decided by a best of five rock-paper-scissor duel between Higgins and Brown.

Brian Higgins

Brian Higgins

Higgins has said this is because the property would need $30 million in repairs, and that alone justifies the freebie.  Is that $30 million on top of whatever development takes place or is that his rough estimate of how much his waterfront project is going to cost?

He’s also criticized the NFTA for having made “three requests for proposals over the last five years with no tangible progress.”

Byron Brown has stated that he wants to “get together” with the NFTA and develop a proposal with them.  He wants to sit down and “talk through it… to look at a range of possibilities.”

Could it be that the NFTA has made no tangible progress because no one has responded in any tangible way to their requests?  Two weeks after the deadline for proposals, the Mayor of Buffalo is suggesting that he sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal?

I don’t think that’s how this works.  Why does the NFTA have to do sit down and do your work for you?  Why is this demand that the land be handed over only coming to light now, rather than the months—if not years—prior to the deadline of this latest request?

Brown wanting to sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal with them suggests that he doesn’t have one at all, and that is terrifying.  If he’s already refusing to pay for the property then what exactly is Brown bringing to the table?

YNN ends their article stating that the NFTA wants proposals submitted within 60 days.  I thought the deadline was two weeks ago?  Wasn’t September 28th the date that the City and ECHDC needed to submit their proposals?  Where has this additional 60 days come from?  When does it begin and end?  Why are we even asking that?  Isn’t the deadline the deadline?

Where is the city’s proposal?  Where is the ECHDC’s?

The NFTA paid nothing for the property, that’s what you’re upset about Brian Higgins?  You don’t want to pay for the property because they didn’t 60 years ago when they took it over from the Port Authority?  Get over it.  Make an offer, get control, rebuild it.  NOW.  This city has been dying without a waterfront, whether as a commercial harbor or a tourist attraction, for the last sixty years.  Do something about it.  Do something other than cry about how unfair it is you have to pay for a piece of land you want to own.

creepy abandoned mansion

As this house is a liability and not an asset, it is now free to whoever wants it.

Let’s put it this way:

There’s a house on Buffalo’s East Side an individual wants to buy.  It’s owned by the City of Buffalo and listed at $7,000.

The problem is, the house is a disaster.  It’s going to need new water pipes, new wiring, drywall, appliances, bathroom fixtures, cabinets.  In short, it needs to be gutted and rebuilt from its broken basement windows on up.  What’s the going to run?  $60,000?  More?

By Brian Higgins’ logic, the City of Buffalo should just give that individual the house.  They shouldn’t have to pay a cent for it.  After all, a house in that state of disrepair is not an asset to the city, but a liability, and we haven’t seen any tangible progress on the City’s part to rehabilitate the property.

That’s not going to fly is it?

Get your proposals in order.  This has gone on long enough.


As the Deadline Approaches It Comes Down to Two for the Outer Harbor

Buffalo Outer Harbor owned by Niagara Frontier Transit Authority NFTA

previously published on
Buffalo SoapBox

Hoping to unload close to 400 acres inherited from its predecessor, the Niagara Frontier Port Authority, nearly sixty years ago, the NFTA seems to be down to only two potential buyers.

After doing absolutely nothing with the property since its formation, the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority approached the City of Buffalo, Erie County, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and New York State Parks to submit proposals by September 28th.

Now it appears Erie County and State Parks have backed out and the decision will come down to the City of Buffalo or the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp, run through the state.  The two main noisemakers are Assemblyman Michael Kearns, who believes the City of Buffalo “should control its own destiny” and own the property, while Rep. Brian Higgins is throwing everything behind the ECHDC.  Despite each side vying for ownership, they’ve both claimed that whoever is victorious there will be cooperation and compromise from each entity.

On the ECHDC’s side it has the Canalside project and reconstruction of the Commercial Slip under its belt, which is only a small part of its overall plan for the Inner Harbor.  For the City of Buffalo, a large part of their argument is their management of the Webster Block Project as proof that they’re committed to top-notch redevelopment in the city.

The proposals are due September 28th, but the NFTA has until January 28th to evaluate each on the grounds of how the property is used and developed, how public access will be maximized and maintained, and of course, the purchase price.


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