School of Architecture and Planning

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The Economics of Heritage Development

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Idea of Heritage Development

Urban Design and Heritage Development

Exhibit of Historic Views

Heritage Development
- a Case Study

Group Discussion Sessions

A Summary of the Conversation

Content Analysis
(coming soon)


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Foot of Main Street, 1890. - WNY Heritage Institute CollectionThe common ground I see in entering this Canal Conversation is that thereís agreement on a number of things. Thereís an agreement about invigorating downtown. There is a commitment to the community. Thereís an agreement that the Canal and the Canal story is important and that this whole project is part of larger place-making goals and thereís an agreement ó and I think that this goes way, way back in time to when people first started looking at opportunities for this parcel, and I have been fortunate to be among those groups examining alternatives for the Inner Harbor over the last five or six years ó to have a legitimate process at arriving at the decisions.

So, whatís the real debate? Essentially, we found the CanalÖ now what? What level of authenticity does the significance of finding the Canal, the structure itself and the stories that are associated with it, demand and require of us as responsible people who are committed to honoring our past at the same time moving forward to the future? And, that begs the question ó and this is the key one ó what degree of context is necessary to do that story justice? Because itís an enormous spectrum. If you want to think about that spectrum as a range, whatís the low end? Well, the low end is probably throwing up a plaque. Throwing up a plaque that says, hereís the Canal slip. Hereís a map. Hereís how it fits into the city. Thanks a lot. See you later. Bye. (laughter)

Then youíve got the whole other end of things where itís: letís make the Canal a centerpiece of an entire environment that honors the Canal and its role in Buffalo history. Maybe it has a living history component. Maybe youíll be making future people climb the rigging. But, it is some sort of very large facility that makes a statement that this is the most important thing about this area of our community and itís going to be the thing that drives all the other decisions about our built environment.

But then in the middle, thereís a whole other range of opportunities and potential solutions. And, they donít rule each other out. You can choose to alight on a part of this spectrum and move forward or backward later, to a certain extent, although not completely. And the mid-range is some kind of interpretive center.

But in turn, if once you choose that point of view, then youíve got to think through things like, what aspect of the Canal story are we telling? Are we telling the story of the technology? Are we telling the story of the people? Are we telling the story about the place? All of those stories? In order to provide the context for the visitors to appreciate the Commercial Slip and the Canal, do we have to tell those stories right here next to it? Like you would with a plaque or like you would with an immersive environment? Or, can we do it somewhere else or will the visitors not get the connection?

By visitors Iím speaking broadly in this case. We want Greater Buffalo residents to be sure that they appreciate the heritage of their area too. So, itís a very broad question about providing enough context for people to get what the significance is of what now looks to an uneducated eye like a hole in the ground with a bunch of rocks in it. We all know itís much more than that, but how can we make sure everybody always knows itís much more than that?

Erie Canal Passenger Packet. - Buffalo and Erie County Historical SocietyThen there are the people who are focusing on the fact that this is a critical waterfront site for Buffalo. Well, what makes a good waterfront project? People bring up places like Baltimore or they bring up places like Chicago or San Francisco, and whatís going on in those waterfronts is that they have a number of things in common.

There is a lot of activity at the point at which the water meets the land, whether itís piers or whether itís a shoreline ó thereís a lot going on. Itís reliable that thereís going to be people and activity there. Thereís activity on the waterside as well as on the landside. You can see things come and go. You donít know necessarily what you will see, but you can guarantee that thereíll be something happening. Thereíll be boats going by or thereíll be somebody rigging a sailboat or thereíll be fishermen bringing in their catch, depending on the location.

What you wind up having on a successful waterfront is a place that derives its identity from the things that happen on the waterside as well as the things that happen on the landside. Thatís how it becomes a destination. You donít necessarily know what itís going to be when you get there, but something thatís kind of fun and visually interesting is going on.

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