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Proposed Bass Pro/Benderson adds up to over $130,000,000. Here's proof.

There is a lot of blather, froth, disinformation, wishful thinking, and a willing suspension of disbelief among local politicians and the small but powerful coterie that constitutes Buffalo's real estate/industrial complex about the supposed benefits of destroying the historic site of the Canal District and its future potential for a shopping center anchored by a Bass Pro. Let the truth set you free. Read the entire "Pre Development Agreement" (hype for the more prosaic Memorandum of Understanding; this is the second such MOU signed by Bass Pro and the Erie Canal Harbor Corporation). It is a fascinating look at the classic spoils system updated to the 21st century.

Click on the link below to download this second MOU between the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC - a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, ESDC), big box category killer Bass Pro, and Benderson Development.  The dream of the Canal District becoming a real neighborhood again, embodied in the "People's Plan" of 2004 and being built now, would be forever dashed. The People's Plan, subject of a post below, can be downloaded there.

Download bass_probenderson_pda.pdf

Buffalo Must Not Sacrifice Its Rich Inheritance in Canal District

By Roy Mann, Senior Principal of The RiverStudio, author of the Erie Canal Heritage Waterfront Feasibility Study and Plan of 2000. This article appeared in slightly different form in The Buffalo News.

Big cities make big mistakes; great cities make few of them. That’s why they’re great – and stay that way.

The Bass Pro development plan is a grave error, based apparently on a conviction that sales tax revenue and the prestige of a national sports goods store will more than compensate for the loss of the treasures of the historic waterfront. Visions of public enjoyment of a transformed Central Wharf have been painted in rosy swatches. Intentions of homage to the city’s significant historic past have been warmly recited.

The problem is that the Bass Pro building and parking ramp will deaden the area, rather than enliven it. Retail stores close typically at 9:00 in the evening. Their storefronts and sides, particularly with big-box entities – where ground level street-edge floor areas are too valuable for the company to lease out to restaurants and such that cater to street pedestrian traffic – turn lifeless and discourage pedestrian circulation and interest. Parking structures, visible from and adjacent to the street, are even more detrimental. Not only are people disinterested in reaching restaurants, entertainment venues, and other evening offerings overshadowed by such realities, investors shy away from opening public-dependent businesses in their vicinities. Evening entertainment – which begins to live and breath at nine – has little chance at thriving.

Continue reading "Buffalo Must Not Sacrifice Its Rich Inheritance in Canal District" »

"People's Plan" for Buffalo's Canal District Wins International Award

The Final Master Plan for the Erie Canal Harbor Project, the "People's Plan" resulting from the input of dozens of civic organizations and hundreds of individuals at a series of public meetings and comment periods, itself the result of a lawsuit that sought meaningful public input, has won the prestigous Planning Honor Award from the international Waterfront Center at its 19th Annual “Excellence on the Waterfront” program competition. The Master Plan is available for viewing and download in an earlier post.

Ironically, a new ESD subsidiary, The Empire State Development Corporation (ECHDC) has repudiated the "People's Plan" and is seeking a clawback, taking over the site both philosphically and financially. We are back to the site as a mere cookie-cutter shopping destination to benefit established community powers.

Here is an excerpt from the Empire State Development Corporations press release issued at the time the award was issued. :

“This award is something all of New York State can be proud of.  The Erie Canal Harbor Project has been recognized for its exciting vision for the future of Western New York as well for its outstanding design,” Empire State Development Chairman Charles A. Gargano said.  “Receiving the “Planning Honor Award” confirms what we have long known:  Governor Pataki’s leadership is moving New York State towards a better and brighter future by embarking on projects that will make our state an even greater place to live, work and visit.”

The project was submitted for consideration by Peter Flynn of Flynn Battaglia Architects PC, and Thomas Blanchard, Director of Research & Planning for the Western New York office of Empire State Development Corporation, and was selected from a field of 74 entries from across the world.  With the Planning Honor Award, the Erie Canal Harbor Project joins other category award winning projects and communities like the Wuxi Li Lakefront Design in the Jiangsu Province in China, the Walsh Bay Project in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and the Silvertown Quays Master Plan in London.

Continue reading ""People's Plan" for Buffalo's Canal District Wins International Award" »

The Bass Pro Museum Scam

Unreported in the mainstream media is the fact that the public is going to be on the hook for $14.8 million to build a museum for Bass Pro in the Canal District as part of the Bass Pro/Benderson $130,000,000 subsidy package. The giveaway is being orchestrated by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC, but it might as well be LOOTers, Leaders Of Our Town). One may recall that one of the chief benefits being hyped by Buffalo officials years ago regarding Bass Pro - a predatory retailer whose business model depends on public subsidy - was that the store would be so huge it would include a Great Lakes museum, for free.

Well, read the fine print. The "Pre Development Agreement" offered up by ECHDC (available for download in an earlier posting) includes a requirement that the museum be publicly financed. This so-called museum would be staffed not by professionals, but by Bass Pro employees. It is to be, in effect, a sales environment. The cost to the public also has an ongoing,  open-ended component: the public must make up any operating deficit the museum incurs. There are no ceilings or safeguards against abuse in the agreement. In other words, Bass Pro could not charge for admission, call all employment and utilities as operating expenses, deduct net profits of museum-generated sales, and stick the public with an annual bill. There is nothing stopping Bass Pro from hiring 20 people at $100,000 annually and claiming a $2,000,000 annual deficit on salaries alone.

Continue reading "The Bass Pro Museum Scam" »

Buffalo Going after Shrinking Hunting and Fishing Market

There's Smart Growth, then there's Dumb Non-Growth. The Bass Pro/Benderson imbroglio in and around Buffalo's Canal District, composed of a $130,000,000 in upfront handouts for, among other things, a character-destroying big box Bass Pro proposed for what is planned to be a waterfront open space.

There is a long and sorry history of chuckleheaded projects in Buffalo and across the nation concocted by desperate politicians, greedy real estate developers, compliant bureaucrats and sharky consultants posing as "development" experts. Throw in cheering boosters in the mainstream media, and you get counter-productive, counter-intuitive projects.

The day after the March 30 meeting of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ESHDC), which featured more spin than an F5 tornado, the NY Times published an article about the decades-long decline in fishing licenses ("Fish are Biting, but the Anglers Aren't"). In other words, our various governments, the city, county, state, and nation, are picking winners in a private market that is shrinking. The losers? The public that finances these crackpot schemes, and the Mom-and-Pop hunting and fishing stores, as well as chains which do not accept subsidies.

The Times article reports that fishing licenses have declined 20% from 1990 to 2005, even as the U.S. population continued a strong upward trend. Hunting licenses, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife statistics declined almost 8% in the same period. There are about twice as many fishing licenses issued in recent years than hunting licenses.

$34.5 million in Unneeded Parking Ramps for Benderson/Bass Pro

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Inner Harbor Project (since renamed the Erie Canal Harbor project), issued in 1999, contains a parking inventory summary. It found 11,009 off-street parking spaces within 1,500 feet of the Canal District. Further, those closest to the Canal District had the lowest usage in a mid-day workday survey: an extremely low 17%. This is because of all the parking built for the HSBC Arena, which gets used to capacity only during concerts and hockey games. Summer weekends and evenings, the expected peak time of demand for the Canal District, finds these spaces virtually empty.

Why then does ECHDC want to build no less than 2,400 parking spaces in four parking ramps at public expense for the free use of Benderson Development and Bass Pro? One of the ramps is planned withing the Canal District itself, called by ECHDC, without irony, the "Historic Block."

Download the "People's Plan" Under Construction that Bass Pro Threatens to Derail

The Bass Pro/Benderson debacle being shilled about by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ESDC) is a gross abnegation of the public trust represented by the Final Supplemental Environmental  Impact Statement of the Erie Canal Harbor Project (signed by the Federal Transit Administration, the NFTA, and the parent of ECHDC, the Empire State Development Corporation), and its companion Master Plan. Can't remember all that? Just call it the People's Plan, because it was the result of a citizen-brought lawsuit and a judicially mandated and very inclusive public review process. Click on the link to download the master Plan that is being built right now, and click on the images to see sketches of what the Canal District could be.

Download Final_Master_Plan_Report.pdf

Aerial_sketch Central_wharf_sketch


Continue reading "Download the "People's Plan" Under Construction that Bass Pro Threatens to Derail" »