Its hard to keep track of all the stupid mega-project proposals that have come down the pike in the past, we know, but the reader may recall that once upon a time there was a plan to build a convention center with tax payer money at the so-called Mohawk site. Downtown entrepreneur, Mark Goldman referred to it as a deathstar, because it would have cut off pedestrian traffic, while simultaneously destroying the fabric of that area of downtown and the businesses located therein.
Despite the fact that the convention center was never built, at least one major employer became a casualty. Holling Press, founded by Thomas Holling, a former Mayor of Buffalo, was forced to relocate after City Hall refused to discuss the plan or relocation of businesses in the footprint. With the long term fate of the company up in the air, Holling had little choice but to make an exit to the suburbs. Coincidentally, Mayor Anthony Masiellos crony Rocco Termini acquired the building and is now converting it into upscale condos.
Many of the same people who scoffed at the idea that the Mohawk site represented an opportunity to recreate a historic and eclectic downtown neighborhood are now on the bandwagon, beating the drum. The Mohawk convention center proposal disappeared into oblivion for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a lack of state funding for the project. So why would the state now fund an even more ambitious project?
Lets just pretend that weve been magically transported into the movie, The Graduate, and were aimlessly drifting around the pool, like Dustin Hoffmans character. The man with the one word of advice for our future would appear as Gov. George Pataki and his word would be: gaming.
The Buffalo Lakefront Teams Proposal includes plans for two hotels. The Bass Pro Shops $66 million dollar government project includes another hotel. Radisson Hotels is planning another hotel in the old Corn Exchange building, which is located opposite the proposed federal court house building, and if memory serves me correctly our civic leaders have seen fit to invest millions of dollars in other hotel projects that have, to put it mildly, had a rather repugnant aftertaste. The former Pillars Hotel at Roswell Park and the Radisson at The Market Arcade are just a couple of the most recent cases of heartburn left behind by the boundless optimism of our civic boosters.
Lest we forget, we had a reminder today that Paul Snyders Hyatt hotel also soaked up several million dollars. Snyder wants to sell and the new waterfront convention center is threatening to scuttle the deal. So there may be trouble in paradise.
Using government money to increase bed space has never increased the demand for that bed space in the past, but just because something doesnt work, doesnt mean you should stop trying. Our leaders are nothing, if not tenacious.
Which brings us back to the Silver Bullet theory. Building a convention center with 300,000 square feet of space will put us in the ballpark with Ft. Lauderdale. The amount of visitors that The Buffalo News has projected will visit the new Bass Pro Shop may rival the draw at the Eiffel Tower (the actual Eiffel Tower in Paris, France). Our planners see us competing as a region, and so it follows that the government must imitate George Steinbrenner, if it expects to win.
Joining Amherst based Uniland Development on the waterfront team is the Opus Group. We have a lot more to say about their involvement in next issue. Does this new team have ties to the Warren buffet empire? Dont let the suspense kill you. By John McMahon
Well, The Buffalo Lakefront Development Team has been given the green light for its plans to develop the long neglected outer harbor by the NFTA and the good news is that their plan has an expensive silver bullet, mega-project worked into a program. It appears that our new horizon features another albatross that de-empahsizes public access and input for the good of a well-heeled, chosen few.