National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe, fresh from a visit to Buffalo in late June, has written Mayor Byron Brown, urging him reject a proposal for a Bass Pro megastore that would on the site of the historic Central Wharf. The wharf is part of Buffalo’s historic Canal District, the infrastructure of which was slated to have been completely reconstructed by this fall. A new Naval Museum, bowstring truss bridge, and a re-watered Commercial Slip have been completed, but all other work on the site, including a network of stone streets and a public park on Central Wharf, has been halted by state officials because of the Bass Pro proposal.
The National Trust joins a lengthening list of organizations voicing their opposition to Bass Pro and urging completion of the project as planned. The organizations include The Campaign for Greater Buffalo, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, The Preservation Coalition of Erie County, The Niagara Frontier Chapter of The Sierra Club, The League of Women Voters, and Voice Buffalo, a network of religious organizations.
In his June 13 letter, Moe praises the city’s “rich and diverse historic character,” and preservation-based development, which he saw as an invited guest of civic leaders hoping to snare the National Trust Annual Conference for 2011. The city is competing with Philadelphia and Hartford, with the National Trust expected to announce a site in October. Moe state’s that it is the Trust’s understanding that the heritage-based plan was “guiding the redevelopment until Bass Pro demanded the site right on the district’s waterfront,” and that the Trust does “not believe that the City should allow Bass Pro to consume such a critical and sensitive piece of waterfront property...Because it is totally out of keeping with the scale of and vision for the Erie Canal Harbor District, the proposal would needlessly defeat the great work underway to revitalize Buffalo’s waterfront, and the hopeful, inclusive planning process that preceded it.”
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo, which has led the fight to protect the Canal District and complete the 2004 Master Plan for the site, is grateful for the Trust’s support. “This affirms the national importance of the site and the interest of people far beyond Buffalo in the welfare of our part of the national heritage. The Trust’s slogan is “Protecting the Irreplaceable,” and that is certainly what we ought to do here,” says Campaign President Paul McDonnell.