School of Architecture and Planning

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The Idea of Heritage Development

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Economics 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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You, not only you, but we, because I live on the Erie Canal too ó we not only have brand name recognition here in our country, but all over the world, and that is something that no one can give you. Itís here and itís an asset that needs to be used.

Iím not going to presume to tell you about your canal history, because I donít know a lot about Buffaloís history. But, I do know that when the Erie Canal ended here, you became, for the 19th century, almost the Kennedy Space Center launching pad of today. So many people and goods passed through this very spot that we are on, to explore the interior of a new continent, and not just to explore it, but to populate it, to live there, to grow into the West.

Before the Erie Canal, there was an earlier canal in 1795, and thatís the section Iím familiar with, in the Mohawk River. At one point, Schenectady was an international port. Now, how many of you have been to Schenectady? Iíve been to Buffalo quite a few times, and by the way, itís always been sunny when Iíve been here. (laughter)

Schenectady was an international port because that was the head of the navigable Mohawk River. The Falls at Cohoes prevented any congress between the Hudson River and the Mohawk River. The Mohawk River has been used for eons as a passageway. Certainly thatís how the great Iroquoian empire grew in the pre-European contact. It was a strategic corridor during the Revolutionary War. People have always been tromping up and down the Mohawk Valley, but not always as far as Western New York.

I would say that although the Canal began in Rome when they started digging in both directions, you got the grand finale here, right here at the Commercial Slip. This was the new frontier and a lot of Americans passed through here. Last night Jerry Adelmann talked about the ďGrand Tour,Ē some of the first tourism in the United States and he talked about New York City and Niagara Falls, but the tourists got there on the Erie Canal. They came up the Hudson River, and across to Buffalo before traveling back home.

So this passageway through the center of New York State has always had an extremely high transportation importance and because you are the terminus here, anything that develops in the future as far as enhanced heritage tourism needs to include the site that you have within Commercial Slip.

This is, in fact, possibly a world heritage site when you think about it. A few years ago I traveled up to the very top of Newfoundland. Took two weeks to get up there. We went to a place called LíAnse aux Meadows which is where the Vikings landed and lived for three years. This site was developed after extensive archaeological digs that turned up only six little objects. One of them was a spindle whorl, one of them was a cloak pin and a couple of other metal pieces. But that is now a world heritage site. Within Commercial Slip you have the nexus of another world heritage site because its importance to the 19th century was as great as LíAnse aux Meadows was in the year 1000.

We are very blessed at this point in New Yorkís economic development to have a lot of focus on the Erie Canal and its renaissance. Most of the work that we do in the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor and that will happen in the Western Erie Canal Corridor, is to create an identity. The Erie Canal gives Buffalo a strong identity.

Another job we have is to link the places that tell our stories. And when you talk about any development here at commercial slip you need to recognize that this is, I would say the tail end, and I donít mean that in a derogatory way, but this is a terminus end of an incredible system that stretches 524 miles throughout New York State. New York City, Albany, Buffalo. There is a wonderful swing here that is full of real places. A lot of these real places need strengthening. The work that we do in the Mohawk Valley does some of that.

We work in a lot of communities to identify their community icons. What physical place in that community captures the essence of the community? In Waterford itís the flight of locks. So a lot of commercial building activity, development activity, is focusing on their harbor area. In Cohoes itís the Harmony Mills complex. Quite a derelict right now, but there are developers in the wings waiting to do something there. Amsterdam has the Painted Rocks of Amsterdam, which is a petrograph painted on rocks that have been submerged, and theyíre reviving that.

There are a lot of formal projects that have come forth under the Canal Recreationway Plan and through the HUD Canal Corridor Initiative funding. Also, we in New York have the Environmental Protection Fund and the Clean Air/ Clean Water Bond Act, and the transportation monies from the Federal government. We have a lot of potential funding sources right now in New York State to really create a world-class recreation way.

One of the interesting components of the HUD initiative was to create a regional synergy and that means paying attention to your neighbors and what theyíre doing. Weíre seeing that in the Mohawk Valley as more and more municipalities, first of all, recognize that thereís another municipality next to them. But they are also beginning to take into consideration whatís going on in Fort Plain when theyíre figuring out what to do with Canajoharieís money. Rome is looking at Utica and saying, ďoh, alright, youíre going to do that. So weíll do something different.Ē And Schenectady is looking at both of these communities to say, alright, letís see what we can do to create a continuous experience from the land side, as John said, as much as from the water side, because, probably in our lifetimes thereís always going to be more land-based visitation.

But itís the community residents themselves who benefit from heritage development and identifying these icons. Youíve got the icon here. The Commercial Slip is an icon of what created Buffalo as the world-class city that it is. Youíve got it right here. And whatever form of development that you do with it, it needs to be highlighted as your icon as much as any of your beautiful buildings because it goes back to the root, the reason people came here and passed through here.

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