Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: Buffalo's Central Park Plaza: they built a shoppmg center WHERE?

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,537
    Blog entries
    3

    Buffalo's Central Park Plaza: they built a shoppmg center WHERE?

    There. At the bottom center of the aerial below. Far from any streets that could be considered major, minor, or otherwise.



    You're probably asking yourself "What the hell were they thinking?" Even being familiar with some of the backstory, I still ask myself this.

    In the not-too-distant past, large rock quarries punctured much of Buffalo's East Side. The largest was the 200 acre Bennett Quarry, just east of Main Street towards the northern end of the city. Here's how a large part of it looked in 1925.



    In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the city's last remaining quarries stopped mining operations; they were completely surrounded by a dense city that was, for all practical purposes, built out. The quarry sites were reclaimed, mainly by functioning as massive garbage dumps for a few years. Throughout the city, the former quarry sites were developed for public housing, factories, and in the case of Bennett Quarry, a mixed use development called Bennett Village.

    Bennett Village brought some flavor of the growing suburbs into the City of Buffalo. It included a mix of suburban-style single family houses, townhouses and two-story apartment buildings. A missing portion of Amherst Street that was severed by the Bennett Quarry was reestablished, turning the road into a much-needed crosstown street. Here's the site in 1951.



    With Buffalo being built out, and urban renewal still several years away, there was little room for the same kind of newfangled supermarkets and discount department stores that were drawing the city's shoppers away from downtown and neighborhood centers, and into the suburbs. Northeast Buffalo was considered a vibrant area; east of Bennett Village was Kensington, a desirable lower middle class neighborhood comprised of thousands upon thousands of bungalows. To the south was Highland Park, now called Fillmore-Leroy, an established lower middle class, predominantly German-American community. A few blocks to the west, across Main Street, was the wealthy Central Park neighborhood; beyond was upper middle class Parkside and North Buffalo. Bennett Village was considered prime real estate, and it provided the only location in Northeast Buffalo where new retail development, with plenty of parking for the city's growing number of car-owning households, could be built.

    The answer: Central Park Plaza. For reasons unknown, though, Central Park wasn't built on the busy new extension of Amherst Street. Instead, it was tucked away on the side streets extending from the established grid in Fillmore-Leroy. Despite the out-of-the-way location, the plaza prospered as a shopping destination from the time it was built in 1958, through the 1960s, and 1970s. At its peak in the mid-1970s, Central Park Plaza included a large discount department store (Twin Fair), three large supermarkets (Tops, Super Duper, Bells), two five-and-dime stores (SS Kresge and G.C. Murphy), Western Auto, several bank branches, and locations of several local retail chains.

    In the 1970s, the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood experienced rapid change, with an influx of lower income blacks. Through the 1980s, many of the chains with branches in Central Park Plaza folded. The retail spaces left behind were filled with independent businesses, thrift stores, and social service agencies. Most national retailers demanded locations on major streets with high traffic counts, which Central Park Plaza didn't have. The exception: discount shoe and sneaker stores. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kensington experienced the same kind of transition that Fillmore-Leroy experienced 20 years earlier. Turnover in Central Park Plaza increased, as did vacancies, until it eventually emptied out.

    In April 2010 I visited Central Park Plaza to see what remained.















































    (I'll eventually upload these to the Cyburbia Gallery.)
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    24
    I assume that big hole in the ground at Amherst and Parkridge (just east of the aerial photos you posted) is part of the former quarry. I wonder why that part was never filled in.

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    17,748
    I like how the photographer managed to capture the essence of abandonment, desolation, and decay through so many different ways: the bus no longer stops here, bars on the windows, vast expanse of empty parking lot, liquidator business nearby, presence of a 'feelgood' mural, shabby/unmaintained facilities, etc.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,165
    If that SC was in a economically viable location/muni, developers would be fighting to redevelop it.

    Truly, the thread title gets to the meat of it. Current shopping center developers would never put this size development blocks from the main road. I guess the explanation is that the developer could build and sell the residential faster (due to pent up demand in the immediate vicinity) and that part of the quarry was more readily filled than the center where the shopping center was built.

    Now the neighborhood has a giant white (gray) elephant that should just be demolished and converted to a park.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,537
    Blog entries
    3
    Quote Originally posted by GButler View post
    I assume that big hole in the ground at Amherst and Parkridge (just east of the aerial photos you posted) is part of the former quarry. I wonder why that part was never filled in.
    That quarry was incorporated into Buffalo's stormwater system, from what I always heard. A lot of it was filed in during the 1960s, becoming McCarthy Park.

    I grew up in the area, and could never find a way down into what remains of the Bennett Quarry. Supposedly it's a prime location for fossil hunting.



    From Report of the State Geologist, 1895
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,667
    I definitely think that CPP's location away from main thoroughfares is its biggest negative. I remember shopping at Central Park Plaza whenever we came to visit relatives in Buffalo in the 1960s, and later, as a college student, wondering why it was built behind houses (Bennett Village) rather than right on Amherst Street.

    Buffalonians have and retain a strong sense of neighborhood, so they like to shop near their "turf", which probably explains the great success of the redevelopment of the old commercial/industrial area north of Amherst Street between Elmwood and Delaware (further west of CPP) into a retail/dining/entertainment area. Everybody in Buffalo who lives north of downtown as well as in the western part of Kenmore and Tonawanda seems to shop there regularly, which makes the area a madhouse on weekends.

    Another retail shopping area in the Main/Amherst area (about where CPP is but on 2 main streets) would prosper too, I think, especially if it had some different retailers than found in the Elmwood/Delaware area. There's been some significant redevelopment in the so-called Medical Corridor which is further south, closer to downtown on the east side of Main Street as well as in/near downtown itself, and both include housing. These residents would be a ready market for a Main/Amherst retail district.

    Unfortunately, CPP probably won't be redeveloped unless/until successful redevelopment takes place on Main or Amherst Street and then extends into the existing plaza area.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,537
    Blog entries
    3
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Truly, the thread title gets to the meat of it. Current shopping center developers would never put this size development blocks from the main road. I guess the explanation is that the developer could build and sell the residential faster (due to pent up demand in the immediate vicinity) and that part of the quarry was more readily filled than the center where the shopping center was built.
    I can't say it was a trend of some kind during the 1950s, but I've noticed many other shopping plazas from the same era that were also built off the beaten path, on side streets rather than major/minor arterial roads. There's one at the north end of the city where I live. I remember an old plaza tucked away on some side street in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Buffalo, New York
    Posts
    10
    Central Park Plaza has been completely demolished now. There's a new owner that is redeveloping it. http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/n....html?page=all

    Here's some more history on the area: http://buffalostreets.wordpress.com/.../central-park/

  9. #9
    BANNED
    Registered
    Feb 2013
    Location
    California
    Posts
    2
    It is a great that central park plaza is getting redeveloped, it’s exciting.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,947
    I never thought about it until this thread, the first auto oriented strip mall in my home town was not even visable from an arterial street. Late 50s.

  11. #11
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    17,748
    Quote Originally posted by akepps View post
    Central Park Plaza has been completely demolished now. There's a new owner that is redeveloping it. http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/n....html?page=all

    Here's some more history on the area: http://buffalostreets.wordpress.com/.../central-park/
    Quote Originally posted by ruthevans41 View post
    It is a great that central park plaza is getting redeveloped, it’s exciting.
    I guess my question is what has changed to make redevelopment viable in this location, so that the next incarnation doesn't suffer a similar fate?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,537
    Blog entries
    3
    There's talk of redevelopment, but no plans. Redevelopment for retail will be a big fail, because the problem of its out-of-the-way location won't be solved.

    My armchair planner-esque fantasy plan is to clear the remaining abandoned and underused semi-industrial uses (closed Kauffman's Bakery, etc) between CPP and Main Street to create a linkage between the Amherst Street Metro Rail station and the site, Medaille College, rapidly growing but constrained on a very small campus a couple miles away, would eventually be moved to the former CPP site. Canisius College, also constrained, could then expand onto the former Medaille campus.

    Knowing Buffalo, what will probably happen is infill with vinyl clad tract homes, at suburban densities. Of course, built at double the cost per square foot than what's actually being built in the 'burbs, and subsidized for low/mod income first time homebuyers. Maybe some senior housing and assisted living in the mix. The project will have some feelgood name like "H.O.P.E. Village" or "Dignity Heights".
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,667
    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I guess my question is what has changed to make redevelopment viable in this location, so that the next incarnation doesn't suffer a similar fate?
    My take:
    I think that there's been some significant changes in housing and shopping patterns in and around the City of Buffalo, but the biggest change has been in attitude. When I lived in Buffalo in the late 1970s and 1980s, people who lived west of Main Street, especially those who lived west of Elmwood, never ventured to the East Side except twice a year (around Christmas and Easter) to shop at the Broadway Market. That meant that they stopped shopping at the places they had patronized in the 1950s and 1960s: Central Park Plaza, at the other stores around the Broadway Market, at the Sears between Jefferson and Main, etc. It was the era of "the Malls" in WNY, and the shoppers all wanted to shop in 'burbs. It was also an era marked by racial tensions and drug violence, especially in the CPP area.

    There had always been some retail in the Elmwood/Hertel/Delaware area of northwest Buffalo (along with industrial uses and residential), and that survived but it struggled. I think that soaring gas prices, heavy traffic, and crowded suburban venues as well as the expansion of petty crime into the suburban shopping areas created a market for retail in the city. The redevelopment of the Elmwood/Hertel/Delaware area into a regional shopping area has been a tremendous success. Buffalonians no longer have to drive to the 'burbs to shop at whatever big box they want. This area could probably support more retail but it's running out of easily developed space.

    For several years, the COB has been pushing for redeveloped housing in downtown, on the Inner Harbor waterfront, and elsewhere on the East Side. There has also been the development of the "Medical Campus", which includes a string of hospitals and some biotech firms just east of Main Street, pretty much from just north of downtown and stretching northward. This has drawn a number of younger, middle class professionals into the area for work -- and to move into renovated housing in the area. A lot of these younger people are either from the suburbs or from outside of the area, so they don't share the "seige mentality" that tended to afflict so many life-long Buffalo residents. A lot of the older housing, meanwhile, has been abandoned, and either demo'd legitimately or demo'd by arson, so the threat of crime has lessened in the area, meaning that even people who might not be willing to live near Central Park Plaza are probably not opposed to shopping there if they can find the retailers they want.

    Central Park Plaza is just east of Main Street. It would draw in shoppers who live in and around downtown, Allentown, Parkside, University Heights, Central Park, etc, a mix of all income levels, which is similar to the kind of market the Elmwood/Hertel/Delaware area on the other side of the city depends upon. It would also draw in college students who live in/around the UB South Campus, especially since it is quite close to the MetroRail station at Main and Amherst.

    A few years ago, the Tops Markets grocery chain opened a new supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in a predominantly low-income African American area of the city. By all accounts, that supermarket is doing well, which has probably encouraged developers to take a good look at the opportunities for retail at Central Park Plaza since it is further south but not too far distant from CPP.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  14. #14
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,737
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    For several years, the COB has been pushing for redeveloped housing in downtown, on the Inner Harbor waterfront, and elsewhere on the East Side.
    Did they finish the casino in the inner harbor area?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,667
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Did they finish the casino in the inner harbor area?
    No, it's still the same little building. The "Buffalo is Too Good to Have a Casino" (AKA "Only Our Crowd is Allowed to Make Money in Buffalo") crowd stalled it with lawsuilts long enough for the credit freeze in 2008-2009 to derail it, and now the Senecas are peeved at the govie, Cuomo the Younger, who NOT only wants to tax Seneca cigarette and gasoline sales but now wants non-Indian casinos in the state. They aren't building anything.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  16. #16
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,737
    ^I like the Niagara Falls (NY) casino but it doesn't seem to have done much for that city. The location they picked in Buffalo seemed pretty good though with the hockey arena nearby

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Ocean to the east, land to the west
    Posts
    1,055
    Dan, these photos are great. Thanks for posting them. I can think of many strip malls like it.

    For some reason, malls of any sort generally depress me, but these photos more than most.

  18. #18
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,537
    Blog entries
    3
    One thing I remember from when I was taking the photos: two young kids who were walking across the parking lot, each about 10 or 12 years old, yelled:

    "Get out, whitey! This place is for black people!"

    Seriously? This wasteland is your Chocolate City? Really?

    Ironically, my first job as a teenager was in Central Park Plaza, stocking shelves at Super Duper.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered
    Jun 2013
    Location
    allendale, sc
    Posts
    1

    Good old times

    My mother and I grew up on Rodney Ave, at the top of the "plaza, quarry" I watched the transformation from Quarry to dump to Plaza.
    To keep on subject, It did close all the small stores on Filmore, but Acme moved into a larger store in the plaza.
    And I see its in for its next transformation.
    Dan, the storm water retentision basen had six foot pipes that we would walk under the Baily ave. area in.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 2
    Last post: 27 Jun 2011, 7:53 AM
  2. Replies: 14
    Last post: 10 Apr 2008, 1:45 AM
  3. Replies: 3
    Last post: 02 Jul 2007, 9:46 AM
  4. Replies: 11
    Last post: 23 Feb 2007, 12:27 AM