The Campaign for Greater Buffalo is proposing a series of of structures for the Buffalo Outer Harbor that are linked in a "visibility chain," united in their utilitarian aspect with the historic character of the Outer Harbor, and provide instantly communicated shelter, sustenance, and sociability. The could all be built for $5,000,0000, or one-third the amount the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has obtained for all Outer Harbor improvements to this stage.
The most expressive structure proposed is a snackbar/cafe conceived of as an outpost for beach goers and bicyclists, the so-called “Beach and Bicycle Club” at the entrance to Wilkeson Pointe Park on Fuhrmann Boulevard. The building acts as an enormous sign, similar to what we are used to seeing as we travel along the American roadside: large barns with advertising signs painted on them.
In the case of Buffalo, and other locales where grain elevators mark the flat landscape, we see them identified with large lettering across the top. Within sight of the beach and bicycle club is the enormous Great Northern elevator. It formerly had it’s name emblazoned on its metal cupola, visible for miles out into Lake Erie, forming a superb target for vessels out in the lake. This beach and bicycle club tweaks the commercial signage and declares that, in fact, there is a public beach (No swimming yet, but there’s a lot of sand and possibilities for a pool—maybe on a barge).
The building is conceived as a roadside barn, down to the attached open-air shed for tractors. The friendly and familiar barn imagery as co-opted for the sign and restaurant. Calling it the “Beach and Bicycle Club” helps to reward those arriving by bike, and to give riders a regional destination in the manner that the Buffalo Automobile Club erected a rustic clubhouse in then-distant Clarence as a destination for automobile lists in the 1910’s.
The café and restaurant would actually be on the small side with a modestly priced menu. Again, it is designed to operate just during warm weather, with most of the seating under the expansive cover facing Lake Erie. In sunny and rainy weather alike, the place offers a sheltered, convivial retreat within sight and walking distance of Ferry Park at the Connecting Terminal Elevator, , the Community Porch, and the Seaway Deli. Already the site of a bicycle rental, it would be a superb summertime hub of bicyclists. Then there is the beach. Behind it, rather than barn doors, would be a glass wall composed of many small panes that would house the restaurant proper and provide refuge on colder and windier days.
The declamatory sign, would be visible from Central Wharf and the Buffalo Skyway. People at Ferry Park could easily divine the path from the tent to the Beach house through the boatyard. Across Fuhrmann Boulevard from the boat yard is a large gravel lot used for off-season boat storage. During the summer this gravel lot is empty and available for overflow parking for the restaurant, if the 746 on-street spaces on Furhrmann are occupied. This obviates the need of using any land for unsightly parking lots. It is simply too valuable and too hard-won to pave over.
The building is, hidden from Times Beach by a stand of large cottonwoods, but has open views of the Seaway piers and the Outer Harbor, as well as the nearby beach and open fields. The material for the building would be vertical wooden planks, just as one would expect on a barn. The back side of the barn retains its outer perimeter, creating an open air courtyard that conceals the service area of the restaurant from public view. You can go whole-hog on the painted-barn imagery, if you like, by painting a large sign on the roof facing the water: EAT. In being functional for boaters and those in the park on the far shore, that would serve the public good.