6/11/2010

Parks vs. Buildings

Posted by MJ

Came across one of those quotes the other day that solidify a thought in one's mind that always there but never quite able to be stated eloquently:

think the knee-jerk reaction towards "green space" is because people have no faith anymore in architects or developers to create buildings worth caring about.

James Howard Kunstler frequently gives an example of this in Saratoga Springs. The city was redeveloping a vacant property that was originally a beautiful hotel that had been demolished for a supermarket or strip mall. The best idea the locals could come up with was "a park", even though there is already an historic Olmsted-designed park right across the street! People just weren't able to even consider that an urban-scaled building could be constructed that would complement the street. Their gut reaction was that any development would necessarily be a detriment to the city, based on decades of experience of that being true.
 
JSmith -buffalo rising
Seemingly all we can wrap our heads around today are parks and attractions. While important they will never float a sinking city ship the way a critical mass of employed citizenry will.


An editorial appeared in the Buffalo News today about the success of the Larkin Building and surrounding area in Buffalo. No parks or bells and whistles to attempt to sow seeds of development. No carriages put before the horse. Just an unique offering of history and the hope for the return of an urban neighborhood that has already been mostly demolished.


We have a similar building. But we also have a semi-functioning Main St a block away, intact housing/neighborhoods to the south and a historic canal and lock system 4 blocks away. Where is the drive to secure a grand vision built from a strong foundation of non-retail jobs? Get people nearby with well paying jobs and homes and the retail will happily follow, mo arm twisting necessary.


...Howard Zemsky is an investor and preservation-minded developer—no, that is not a contradiction in terms—whose family owned Russer Foods. He and partners Joe Petrella, Bill Jones and Doug Swift started it all eight years ago by buying the vacant Graphic Controls building. Despite “no way” warnings from timid skeptics, they pulled off a$30 million transformation, filled its 10 floors with tenants and—with a nod to history— reclaimed the Larkin Building name. It stands as architectural eye candy for thousands of daily commuters on I-190...
...There are different ways to rebuild a neighborhood. This may be the quickest. Zemsky and partners have, he said, spent “several million dollars” buying and rehabbing buildings. Investment attracts investment. First Niagara kicked in $1.5 million for a streetscape face-lift. Architects bought the four-story Kamman Building. Neighborhood homeowners are getting fix-up dollars. There is talk of a new owner—and new life—for the drab, eight-story monolith next to the Larkin.

2 comments:

LoneWolf said...

MJ~
You said,

"Seemingly all we can wrap our heads around today are parks and attractions. While important they will never float a sinking city ship the way a critical mass of employed citizenry will. "

While I do agree with you in regard to employment, not many people are, in fact, employing at all. Case in point, I went thru Lockport(city and town)the other day just for the heck of it to see who may be employing,, and I only seen a FEW signs (noteably CandleLight on West Ave) saying they are "Now Hiring". I also went into a few other places, and personally asked if they were hiring and many said " submitt and app or Resume but no guarantees", OR they said "depends on experince" or "over qualified".

GRANTED, maybe it was the places I went to but the jobs just ARE NOT avialbale.

As far as the parks/attractions, would that not AT THE VERY LEAST, get people "in the door to downtown" and allow them to see what Lockport(and surrounding area) has to offer ?

Case in point .. Look what happend when Niag Falls (U.S. side) got rid of many of the attractions they HAD there. It went DOWNHILL real quick. While your looking at our side .. then look at the Canadian Side .. and see what they have there .. i.e. Clifton Hill, Casino, Restraunts, ect. all RIGHT NEAR the Falls.

My take/question on it is .. What are they doing right that we are doing wrong ??

Answer: They have things that KEEP PEOPLE THERE, for a day , 2 days or some times a WEEK at a time. I'm not talking JUST during the tourism season .. I'm talking YEAR ROUND. I remeber when I was a kid, making the trek ( even on wintery days) to Canada, for Gas, food, and intdoor attractions with my family, on ALMOST a 2 week basis. Some how they made it, and still make it just work.

Granted, we in Western,NY DO get slammed sometimes with UNBEARABLE snow storms, but im sure Niag Falls Canada is no diffrent. But once the weather is semi clear .. and the roads are passable, people will flock for "something to do" after being "cooped-up" for days on end cause of the weather.

So, in a way it IS possible for "the cart before the horse" theory to work, its's just a matter of implimenting it and gettiping it going.

Just my humble thoughts.
~LoneWolf

MJ said...

I guess it all comes down to what you are trying to create.

1) Jobs -> your comment enforces my point. There are not enough good paying jobs around here. Where should $20mil go first? Lock restoration and some touristy shops on canal street or to making Harrison place (Or Canal St) Class-A space for good paying jobs? They accomplished it on the east side of Buffalo and they even took our bank ;)

2)NF Ontario pulled the best preemtive strike ever. In the early 90's they saw NY was also considering Casino's. Not only did they beat us to the bunch but the designed a master plan, in which they owned the casinos, to reinvest most of the income back into the city and let other developers/businesses know that they were not there to compete, but to help nurture. Before the Casino it was basically Clifton Hill and the half-empty Maple Leaf Center if I recall correctly. No tmuch more than NF NY with the Rainbow Center and some amusement type stuff outside.

What did NY state do in response? Give land to the Seneca's, take a small portion of profits and give even a smaller portion of it back to the city with no plan. What developer would want to invest nearby knowing the Indians have 50 acres to build and operate whatever they want tax-free?

I feel a large portion of the lost "attractions" on this side was the loss of people and revenue over to the Ontario side making the attractions here finding it hard to stay afloat.

Just my thoughts ;)

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