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Unbuilt Buffalo

Dan

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Reflecting on Audubon Village and the Amherst that could have been, I wondered about other unbuilt large-scale projects that could have changed the face of the region. Those that I can think of off the top of my head include:

* Complete Olmsted parks and parkway system (late 1800s)
* Grand Union Station (late 1800s)
* Audubon Village (1930s)
* Buffalo City Hall tower extension (provisions in design of original structure)
* The completed Audubon New Town (extending north of I-990 to Tonawanda Creek Road) (late 1970s)
* The domed stadium in Lancaster (early 1970s)
* Several expressways: mainly the Crosstown Expressway, Lancaster Expressway, Outer Beltway, and the West Side Expressway. (1960s-1970s)
* Marine Midland Tower 2 (late 1960s/early 1970s)
* High rise office tower on Main Street at the southeast corner of Main and Eagle (late 1980s)
* Adelphia Tower (late 1990s/early 2000s)
* ABC - Amherst-Buffalo Corridor, a dense Toronto-style arrangement of high rise apartments in Northeast Buffalo (early 1970s)
* Main Street Mall and the full heavy rail transit system (early 1970s)
* Niagara Jetport in Pendleton: replacement for Buffalo International Airport (early 1970s?)
* All-American Canal (1800s-1970s)
* New Hyatt Regency tower (late 1970s-early 1980s)
* New York Central electrification of the Buffalo-NYC rail corridor (1920s)
* Peace Bridge signature span (late 1990s-early 2000s) :D
* McKinley Mall second level (late 1980s)

Any others that you can think of?
 

The One

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Well.....

Looks like Rumpy will have his hands full in Buffalo:-c I'm waiting for his response to this laundry list of issues......:-o
 

bflo_la

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Dan,

A few others...

* Seaway Tower(s) (was to be located next to HSBC) mid 80's

* New convention center and hotel tower (M&T's Washington street sea of parking) late 90's

*50 story waterfront condo (Rendering sooo not believable) - early 2000's

* The Save Your Unborn Baby Watefront Arch

* World Trade Center (plans 1 and 2) was to have been located within the vicinity of the Peace Bridge --- one or two towers, one possibly 50-60 stories

*35-45 story tower proposed for an empty lot next to Pilot Field - late 80's

*The original UB Amherst plan - conceptually considered at one time to be constructed as one building.
 

jsk1983

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I'm sure some of you have seen this before, but this is a map from a 1954 Erie County Planning Report.



This image is from 1966-67 Biennial Report for the Town of Amherst. Pretty sure it was never built.

 
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jsk1983

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I was at the Walden Super Flea a few weeks ago and came across a booklet on the proposed Humboldt Park Music Hall from I'd assume the 1930s. I believe this was an E.B. Green work but was obviously never built. The booklet includes renderings, floor plans, sight plans, etc. I just moved so I'm not sure where it is but I'll scan it and post it when I do.
 

jsk1983

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Are you inclined to believe that Issa had seriously intended to see the project through--or rather that he was a flamboyant flipper from the start?:-|
Being from Buffalo I was a bit cynical from the start. Of course not everything proposed here in Chicago (i.e. Chicago Spire) gets built, but still it seems like its worse in Buffalo.
 

Dan

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A few more to add to the list:

* Villa Park - Frederick Law Olmsted-designed development in North Buffalo (late 1800s)



* Magical Land of Oz amusement park - Wheatfield (1990s)



* Renaissance Village - TND in Cheektowaga (2000s)



* Lake Erie Park - now the former site of Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (late 1800s)
* E-Zone - planned indoor amusement park on the waterfront (1990s)
* Ransom Oaks - only a very small portion of the planned community in Amherst was built (1970s)
* Riverhaven - large planned community in Grand Island (1970s)
* Largest golf resort in the world, Fort Erie (1920s)

A correction: plans for the All-American Canal, also called the Niagara Ship Canal, began in the 1790s, making it the longest-term unbuilt project in Buffalo's history.
 

Dan

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Add a couple of dead lifestyle center proposals to the list.

* Seneca Place (West Seneca)

[youtube]Wmv0U3-Gbyk[/youtube]



* Amherst Town Center (Amherst)







 

Doohickie

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Add a couple of dead lifestyle center proposals to the list.

* Seneca Place (West Seneca)

[youtube]Wmv0U3-Gbyk[/youtube]

That kind of looks like something they built in Fort Worth, although without the big event venues. It was an old block of industrial buildings, some torn down and built with new buildings (like the 3-4 story apartment buildings in Seneca Place), and remodeling some of the old industrial stuff into nouveau restaurants, shops and apartments.



It was actually done by several developers, at least 3, and the centerpiece is Montgomery Plaza, an old Montgomery Ward warehouse converted to shops & lofts. Some of the outlying former industrial buildings are still being redeveloped.



This whole thread is kind of interesting, seeing what might have been. The Renaissance Village in Cheektwaga is interesting too.... sprucing up the old Tiorunda public housing tract. I grew up near there (across the Thruway and Genesee).
 
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Buffaboy

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I've seen this list a couple times over the years. A 23-story apartment tower will be built on the Outer Harbor, so it (fortunately) won't make this list.

There was a project called 33 Gates Circle that is in the shelves for now. It's a proposed 23-story tower south that I haven't heard about in 6 or 7 years.

Perhaps the most beneficial of these dead projects IMO would be the Outer Beltway. I'm a Hamburger, so access to the eastern suburbs and I-90 past Clarence would be great.
 
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Dan

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Unbuilt Buffalo airports: first, the big jetport that was going to occupy thousands of acres north of Buffalo, in the Niagara County towns of Wheatfield and Pendleton.

Jl02gmvObFcDRjbczgP2egBwk_PIdRdDZtgJpNH2I2Q.jpg

Earlier plans to expand the Niagara Falls International Airport. 78 gates -- they were optimistic then.

c6gbizb8s6611.jpg

Plan B: placing the airport in the Town of Newstead, about 20-25 miles (30-40 km) east of Buffalo.

59mnxf0pok611.jpg

A couple more planned communities where construction started, but they were never built to their originally planned scale.

Ransom Oaks in Amherst.

vMtnp8w.jpg

Riverhaven in Grand Island.

1RGMmis.jpg

When Buffalo's original expressway system was first proposed in 1946, many area planners backed an alternative "Midcity Thruway" routing. Their justification -- it would take New York State Thruway traffic through the center of the city, rather than pass aaround its outskirts, better serving cty residents and those commuting downtown. The alternative plan would have been far more destructive than the original 1946 plan (which ultimately was built, with some modifications), have dealt a huge blow to Buffalo's property tax base, and would have destroyed one of Buffalo's wealthiest neighborhoods, along with many working class East Side neighborhoods, and the city's then-small African-American neighborhood along Michigan Avenue. (Contrary to armchair urbanist belief, when the route of the Kensington Expressway (NY 33) was planned in 1946, all the neighborhoods it passed through were predominantly white ethnic at the time.)

15iufitp7as01.png

Finally, Concept 5. Expressways, a massive new airport, expressways, a domed stadium, more expressways, and an All American Canal providing an alternative to the Welland Canal,

zGXos7ikM327zpveOaJAM8YTpZ-lHZyCpfqUSat2X8k.jpg

The late 1960s/early 1970s was a time when there was a brief flash of intense optimism, and local leaders believed Buffalo was on the cusp of a boom. There was still natural population growth from natural births (big Catholic families were still the rule), and in-migration at the tail end of the Northern Cities Migration. The suburbs were experiencing a building boom, and city neighborhoods were still crowded, despite being kind of run down. There were BIG plans on the drawing board -- All-American Canal, Buffalo Jetport, Lancaster domed stadium -- and a lot of state and federal dollars to make them happen. Also, during that time:
  • Buffalo straddled the boundary between second and third tier cities. Its peers among American cities were the likes of Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, and Miami. Today, it's more like a fourth tier city -- its peers are places like Louisville, Memphis, Omaha, and ... Rochester.
  • SUNY Buffalo was fairly new, and state officials intended it to be the flagship SUNY center -- like Ohio State, Penn State, University of Michigan, etc -- with an peak enrollment of 40K-80K students.
  • Buffalo was a serious contender for a MLB expansion team. A few years later, it landed the Sabres and Braves. It was one of the smallest metros with three of the "big four" pro sports, and it almost had all four.
  • Buffalo's banking industry had a very high profile for a city its size -- headquarters for Marine Midland (HSBC), and big regional banks like M&T, Liberty, and Erie.
  • The Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant replaced the (destroyed) Schoellkopf power station. Construction brought thousands of new workers into Niagara Falls, reversing that city's slow decline for a short while.
  • The real estate section of the Sunday Courier-Express and Saturday Buffalo Evening News was packed with advertising for new houses and subdivisions; almost like you'd see in a booming Sunbelt city.
  • After decades of post-Depression malaise, there was a sudden and intense burst of major construction projects downtown -- Marine Midland Center, M&T, Main Place Mall, various county/state/federal office buildings, Statler Hilton renovation, and many others on the drawing board. For a couple of decades, those "evil" urban renewal projects returned a LOT of life back into what was a slowly dying downtown. Most people of that era saw urban "grit" as seedy, dangerous, and an indicator of decay and decline -- not something that's "authentic", "real", or desirable.
  • Buffalo's factories were still expanding, or at least humming along. Mass layoffs, closures, and relocation to Southern states and Mexico were years off.
  • Buffalo still had some Fortune 500 companies -- American Gypsum, Houdaille Industries, and a few others -- and its old money families still had a lot of money and pull. The families who names are on streets, museums, and buildings at UB, were still prominent. S
TL/DR: Buffalo's spirit of optimism today is nothing compared to the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The difference - in the 1960s, there was the money and power to turn Buffalo's big plans into reality, even though it didn't always happen. The megaprojects and civic optimism weren't enough to overcome an even stronger "convergence of suck". Same thing for Cleveland, and even more so for Detroit.
 

Doohickie

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first, the big jetport that was going to occupy thousands of acres north of Buffalo, in the Niagara County towns of Wheatfield and Pendleton.
The concept drawing at the top looks like half of DFW Airport, complete with the semicircular terminals.

TL/DR: Buffalo's spirit of optimism today is nothing compared to the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The difference - in the 1960s, there was the money and power to turn Buffalo's big plans into reality, even though it didn't always happen. The megaprojects and civic optimism weren't enough to overcome an even stronger "convergence of suck". Same thing for Cleveland, and even more so for Detroit.
I grew up in the middle of that. I remember the old AFL Buffalo Bills, and when Buffalo first got the Sabres. The franchise got off to a good start and made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975, but they never advanced beyond that. I think 1970-ish was a high water mark for the city, because it wasn't too long after that the steep decline started. My mom's entire family (5 brothers) were all laid off from Bethlehem Steel when Japanese steel came in. Until the recent uptick, most of my life has witnessed nothing but decline for Buffalo.

Most people of that era saw urban "grit" as seedy, dangerous, and an indicator of decay and decline
Also consider that the civil rights movement was happening during this time. I can remember lots of news coverage about busing to achieve integration. We lived in a suburb (Cheektowaga) and were not involved with the busing thing but I can remember my mom being concerned that they might try to pull the suburbs into it.
 

Dan

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There's several versions of the 1920s-era Greater Buffalo Motorways system plan, but this is the most ambitious. The inspiration for the Greater Buffalo Motorways system was the Detroit "super-highway" system that gave Southeast Michigan its wide divided mile roads. In the Buffalo area, only Sheridan Drive and parts of McKinley Parkway were built as divided parkways. Many proposed roads in this plan were built, but as two- and four-lane un-divided streets, not divided parkways.

This plan also includes the original Niagara Falls Boulevard concept -- not today's NY 62, but what became Colvin Avenue. The disconnected section of "Colvin Boulevard" in Niagara Falls was going to be the nothern end of the original NFB. The original Colvin Boulevard alignment of NFB had been a dream of civic leaders since the late 1800s, but it died with a whimper in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the right-of-way for the project still exists through North Tonawanda and Wheatfield, and there's other traces in the built environment -- street sections with very wide tree lawns along the route, a provision for future widening.

I've seen newspaper articles from the 1960s reference road projects and their relation to the Greater Buffalo Motorways plan.

XUPrOxp.png
 

Dan

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From the Buffalo Evening News, January 5 1928

497aebf5-14d1-4dae-88f5-15f7da2abc02.png

Otto and Mantis Van Sweringen were planning on building Shaker Heights 2.0 in Tonawanda, along the High Speed Line, an interurban route in private right-of-way that connected Buffalo and Niagara Falls until abandonment in 1937. My holy grail of unbuilt Buffalo -- plans for the Van Brothers' Shaker Heights sequel outside of Buffalo.
 

Dan

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There was a project called 33 Gates Circle that is in the shelves for now. It's a proposed 23-story tower south that I haven't heard about in 6 or 7 years.
33 Gates Circle -- the original proposal. NIMBY put a halt to it, and high end townhouses are taking its place.

1078_2_1000 Diamond 33 Gates Circle 2.jpg
 
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