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Bringing the Bills Back to the City: Imagining the “South Park Site”

Author: Ryan Miller

There has been a lot of exciting news in the past several weeks on the Bills stadium front. In this article we will briefly recap those developments, and then take a deep dive into the proposed “South Park Site” that New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s office is currently exploring as a potential location of the new Bills Stadium.

To recap, the first exciting development was thanks to Paul Wolf and his organization, New York Coalition for Open Government, who helped bring a resolution in front of the Erie County Legislature a few weeks ago that demanded the public release of the stadium study the Pegulas previously commissioned. They are reportedly using this study in their negotiations with Erie County and New York State, but it has never been made available to the public. A few weeks ago, the Erie County Legislature voted unanimously across party lines in favor of the resolution. This was a tremendous step in the direction of transparency, which is paramount to this project that will likely see taxpayers contributing between $500 million to $1 billion in total. How do the results of the survey compare with the Pegula’s proposal for an open air, new build in Orchard Park with 10,000 less seats than the current stadium? We deserve to know prior to any decisions being made, and thanks to all involved, it appears likely that will be the case.

The second development is that the four of the eleven members of the Erie County Legislature (perhaps having been inspired by Paul Wolf and his organization’s fight for transparency) have taken things a step further by submitting a new resolution demanding open dialogue between the public and their elected officials by requiring three public hearings, the creation of an online forum, and requiring a period of at least 90 days to elapse between a proposal being submitted to the Erie County Legislature and the Legislature being able to vote on said proposal. This would help to ensure the public is educated, informed, and given a chance to voice concerns and brainstorm potential alternative solutions prior to their tax dollars being committed towards a particular plan. If passed, this would be a tremendous effort towards protecting the democratic process and ensuring that the ultimate agreement that is reached is in the best long-term interest of the people that live, work, and pay taxes in this community going forward.

That brings me to the third development, which is the focus of this piece. Yesterday, it was reported that last month Governor Kathy Hochul’s office commissioned AECOM, a multinational engineering and consulting firm, to conduct a study on behalf of New York State to be used in negotiations with the Pegulas. Hochul, a Buffalo native herself, may have a different perspective on the stadium situation than former New York State Governor Cuomo had, hence the need for an updated study prior to any further negotiations. Hochul recently said that that the results of New York State’s study will be released very soon, that she is thinking about the situation “constantly,” and promised to “make the right decision for the people for Western New York.” 

The new development yesterday was that one of the aims of the study was to examine other sites besides Orchard Park for a new stadium, specifically a location in the city titled “South Park Site.” I have previously outlined why I believe a stadium in the City of Buffalo is the best option long term for the people of both Buffalo and Erie County for a variety of economic and social reasons, so hearing that the State is wisely still exploring options in the City of Buffalo had me grinning from ear to ear. 

The purpose of this piece today is to shed more light on the potential “South Park” site, and try to create a vision in the mind of readers as to what this may look and feel like. Before I do so, I just want to reiterate one key argument on this topic because I think it is critically important, and with the recent news, I have again seen the many people question the traffic impact and extra costs associated with upgrading the infrastructure of Buffalo and Erie County to get people more efficiently in and out of a stadium in the city without causing traffic issues. As I have previously argued, that while the required infrastructure changes to bring the stadium to the city have been reported to be as high as $1 billion, that cost alone should NOT be seen as a barrier to moving the team to the city, because:

Erie County’s existing public transportation system is woefully inadequate and in need of a massive upgrade if Buffalo and Erie County are going to continue to grow (as they both just did for the for the first time in 70 years).The NFTA’s Metro Bus system and Metro Rail combine to only reach 42% of jobs in Erie County. The lack of public transportation in Erie County significantly limits access to quality jobs, education, and healthcare leading to higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and poor health outcomes. Putting the Bills stadium in the city would force the public transportation system’s inadequacy to finally be addressed in a meaningful way because it would require the creation of much more efficient ways of getting people in and out of the city for Bills games, likely in the form of several new Metro Rail lines running to and from the surrounding suburbs.
The $1 Trillion federal infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate and appears likely to pass the House of Representatives, could likely cover most of the cost of putting the stadium in the City of Buffalo, meaning local taxpayers would actually be looking at a similar cost between Orchard Park and Buffalo. In total, the bill promises $110 billion towards roads, bridges, and major projects, $66 billion towards passenger and freight rail, and $39.2 billion towards public transit. Of the total $1 trillion, New York State is projected to receive the third highest amount of funding at a total of $26.92 billion. With Governor Kathy Hochul’s ties to Erie County, it is a safe assumption that if the bill passes, Erie County would see at least $1 billion of the money allocated to New York State under this Bill.

With that rant out of the way, let’s move onto the South Park Site!

The location was specifically mentioned as a distinct entity that New York State wanted AECOM to re-examine in the newest study commissioned by Governor Hochul’s office. I say “re-examined” because this is not the first time AECOM has been involved in the stadium saga. In fact, New York State commissioned AECOM to study stadium options for the Bills in the past, and in 2014 they submitted an extensive 141 page report. That study looked at 13 different sites in the area and identified 4 sites that were “shortlisted,” meaning they were identified as being the most viable at the time of the study. The full report is available here, but requires a fee to download. I downloaded and read it myself, so to save you the time and money, I will summarize the findings. The 9 sites studied that did not make the short list were:

Central Terminal
Outer Harbor
LaSalle Park
Niagara Falls
Republic Steel
West Seneca
Tonawanda Street
University at Buffalo
Batavia

The four sites that were shortlisted were:

Orchard Park
Cobblestone District
Exchange Street
and (you guessed it) – South Park Site

Let’s take a look at some of the details of the “South Park Site,” as per the 2014 AECOM Buffalo NFL Stadium Site Options Analysis 

Largest of urban sites considered in the study
Potential for 122 acres spanning from the Buffalo River to the south of the stadium up to the I-190 north of the stadium
Northern half of site is comprised of vacated properties, including 15 vacant buildings that make up parts of the Commodore Perry Complex owned by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA)
With enhancements to Louisiana and Hamburg Streets, the site would have sufficient access to the high-volume traffic of I-190
Walking distance to parking options that are already serving KeyBank Center, Canalside, and Cobblestone district
The study recommended approximately $200-250 million in transportation improvements to serve the area including:

$110-$140 million for expansion of the NFTA Metro Rail (see the image from the report below for specifics) and the creation of a new NFTA light rail station and transit hub at the corner of South Park and Michigan Avenue. 
$90 to 110 million dollars to create a new entrance ramp to lanes I-190 at Seneca Street, Louisiana Street, and Hamburg Street; and widen Louisiana and Hamburg Streets from South Park to I-190.

Credit: 2014 AECOM Buffalo NFL Stadium Site Options Analysis, Page 50

What’s changed since 2014?

Looking back at the 2014 study, I think the South Park Site was the best option at the time, and it is an even stronger option now. In the past several years there have been countless developments in and around this site. To start, the Buffalo River underwent a massive clean-up effort through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. The goal of the project, according to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, was to transform the Buffalo River into a “beneficial environmental, economic, and community resource.” It’s safe to say they accomplished that goal (and then some). Starting with the opening of Buffalo Riverworks in 2014, the shores of the Buffalo River have absolutely exploded in recent years with residential and commercial development, a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene, and several successful boat tour and water sports businesses. Resurgence Brewing Company, Hartman’s Distilling Company, Shuck Shack, and Silo City are just a few of many popular destinations along the Buffalo River that have made this area one of the most popular in Buffalo both for a night out and to call home.

Another major update since the 2014 study, is that the study’s proposal for for a new NFTA Metro Rail station (at the corner of South Park and Michigan) has already come to fruition via a separate initiative with funding from Buffalo Billion. The corner of South Park and Michigan, although not explicitly referred to as such in the 2014 study, is actually the site of the longstanding DL&W terminal, one of Buffalo’s many forgotten architectural gems of the past. In keeping with one of the themes that has fueled Buffalo’s recent renaissance, the DL&W Terminal is already in the process of being preserved, restored, and repurposed for the future with funding from Buffalo Billion.

Credit: Rendering of DL&W Station, Buffalo Billion

The project, which is currently in Phase 3, transform the space into “DL&W” Station,” a “public, multi-use destination that fosters commerce, social gathering, community, and a sense of place,” with the goal of generating “increased Metro Rail ridership and an enhanced rider experience for persons of all ages and abilities.” As part of the DL&W station project, the NFTA Metro rail is already slated to be extended beyond the current final stop at Canalside/KeyBank Center, and will instead continue to on to run inside the DL&W terminal where the “DL&W Station” is being built (which is exactly what was suggested in the 2014 AECOM study). 

To try to create a better visual of how things might look and feel with all the recent changes surrounding the “South Park Site,” I used Google Maps to get a current image, and then transposed the location of some of the specifics that were mentioned in the 2014 study.

2021 Projected Updated South Park Site 

Credit: Google Maps

The blue line above represents the NFTA Metro Rail extension inside of the DL&W Terminal (represented by the white box with blue star) that is already fully funded and in the process of happening under the “DL&W Station” project. The 2014 AECOM recommended these changes, and additional extension of the service beyond the new hub at DL&W Station, to the southeast. This is represented by the red line above. The study did not comment on exactly how far the Metro Rail would extend. In the image used in the 2014 study, it extended all the way to the perimeter of the satellite image they used, meaning it would presumably continue on to serve South Buffalo (and ideally the Southtowns as well). I added the yellow line  in the above image as a projected continuation of the Metro Rail into South Buffalo, but this pure speculation on my part and not an explicit reflection of the 2014 study. 

The white outline north of the stadium, which says Area to Create More Parking, is the location of potential additional parking described previously in the 2014 study. Part of this area is occupied by the 15 vacant buildings that make up parts of the Commodore Perry Complex owned by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA). There have been many conversations over the years about demolishing or repurposing these buildings in some way, while simultaneously ensuring new (more up to date) public housing options are created. It seems likely that these could be demolished as part of the project, and then ideally a new public housing project could be built near all of the development and public transportation improvements that would be happening as part of the stadium project.

Looking at the location of the stadium above in relation to all of the progress and growth that Buffalo has seen in recent years, it is hard to imagine a more perfect spot for a stadium in the city. Allow me to try to paint a picture of some of the unique amenities this location offers.

Consider a scenario where you are going to meet up with some of your friends before a game at the new stadium on the “South Park Site.” You plan on having a few drinks throughout the day. You want to enjoy yourself, and not have to worry about driving home after the game. You decide to hop on the Metro Rail, which lets you off at the new DL&W terminal station. You step outside and head towards Canalside to meet up with your friends, and enjoy the various the attractions and entertainment options that has made Canalside Buffalo’s top destinations for both locals and tourists. 

While you are in the area, maybe you could stop at the new Southern Tier Brewery at Harborcenter, The Labatt House/The Draft Room (reopening soon), or the Other Half Brewery at Seneca One for a beverage or brunch. 

You and your friends decide to stop at one of those spots, have a drink, and then step back outside. It’s a crisp fall morning and you are greeted by the warm and familiar scent of cheerios being made at the nearby by General Mills factory. You feel at home. You feel connected to your city, all of the progress it is making, the people that call it home, and the team that bears its name. You are feeling so good about Buffalo and the Bills that you wish you could put down some money on the Bills today. They are going to win big, everybody knows it. Suddenly, you remember, that you can put down money on the Bills (or any other NFL game for that matter) by simply walking 5-10 minutes towards the stadium to the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. While your over there, maybe you could check out Hofbräuhaus Buffalo, Ballyhoo, or Swannie House? After you place your wager, you and your friends head closer to the stadium. There’s still time for one more drink before kickoff, and Riverworks, Resurgence, and Hartman’s are perfectly situated on the doorstep of the new stadium for one last beverage prior to heading in for the game.

The above example, while romanticized to a certain degree by yours truly, does a nice job of highlighting some of the unique aspects of the “South Park Site.” An experience like the one above is something that could seriously change the perspective and narrative around Buffalo for people from outside the area that come to town for a Bills game. I have previously argued, Buffalo does not do a good enough job of forcing out-of-towners to spend time (and money) in the city. Bills game are probably the single biggest reason for someone with no ties to Western New York to come here. The Bills are really our single biggest chance to show our city off, and a stadium on a desolate sea of parking lots in Orchard Park is does us no favors in that regard. With an Orchard Park stadium, it is frighteningly possible for people to come and go for a Bills game, never once set foot in the City of Buffalo, and leave thinking that Southwestern Boulevard is the major thoroughfare Buffalo has to offer. In short, we are doing a little too good of a job at “Keeping Buffalo a Secret.”

Imagine all the money that could be spent at locally owned restaurants, businesses, and hotels in the city of Buffalo, that is instead going to generic, corporate, chain restaurants and hotels in the suburbs with the current Orchard Park stadium. When you also consider the additional potential for sports and entertainment events besides NFL football at the new stadium, it makes even more sense to bring the people that are coming here for said events to Buffalo, not Orchard Park.  

What about tailgating?

Perhaps the best thing about the “South Park Site,” in my opinion, is that as the largest of all the possible sites (including Orchard Park), it still has somewhat of sprawling, wide-open feel (especially to the south), that would lend itself well to tailgating and some replication of the atmosphere that many people love so much about the Orchard Park stadium. In addition to the proposed “Area to Create More Parking” in the Google Maps picture above, there is an abundance of green space and undeveloped land to the south of the “South Park Site.” Anyone who has been on a Buffalo River boat tour, knows how much of that area is still untouched and ripe with opportunity for development. I could see public and private parking lots and tailgating areas like those in Orchard Park being constructed in some of these areas to the south, with the option to walk or (depending on how far away) take a shuttle or the NFTA Metro Rail to the stadium.

I know one of the most common reasons that people are against a stadium in the city are the implications on tailgating, but I think that we are greatly underestimating the ingenuity of #BillsMafia with this. Bills fans will find a way to tailgate and have a good time no matter where the stadium is. Look no further than some of the videos from the 2018 playoff game in Jacksonville for example.

No city stadium will ever exactly replicate the current environment in Orchard Park, but the options for tailgating at the South Park site are honestly quite extensive. The area is easily accessible by personal vehicle by multiple exits off the I-190, and in addition to tailgating in the proposed parking areas outlined north of the potential stadium, there is also massive potential for tailgating within some of the existing parking ramp structures of Canalside/Cobblestone District, or potentially even the creation of a new parking ramp structure/tower specifically for the Bills stadium that would also allow tailgating inside the ramp. 

With the ability to create a somewhat similar environment to Orchard Park at the “South Park Site” in terms of tailgating and atmosphere, I think it is foolish to let that issue alone prevent a stadium from going in the city. I encourage people to consider the bigger picture of what a stadium in the city could do for Buffalo and Erie County; and the people that live, work, and pay taxes here. As outlined above, there would still be an option for tailgating to be preserved to a significant degree, but this stadium would also provide additional options for the pregame experience besides tailgating, such as being able to go out to brunch, have a few drinks at a local brewery or distillery, or laying down a wager on the game at the casino before walking over to the game. Some people may end up preferring that option. The nice thing about this location is there is something for everyone, no matter what their particular preference for spending gameday is. 

Last, but certainly not least, the “South Park Site” would allow #BillsMafia to take their tailgating game to the next level, because the publicly accessible Buffalo River would allow for fans to finally experience one of the rarest and most elite tailgating experiences known to man: tailgating on a boat, which has been affectionately dubbed “Sailgating.”

I know a stadium in the city is a highly complex, divisive, and highly politicized issue that everyone has a slightly different opinion on. There are additional variables that would still need to be worked out regarding the “South Park Site.” In addition to the Commodore Perry Complex, there is a residential neighborhood in the First Ward that closely borders this site, and the residents of that neighborhood need to be considered and involved in the decision-making process and planning if this site is chosen. We also need to ensure that concessions are made within this project to ensure the long-term protection, environmental integrity, and viability of the Buffalo River going forward.

Many people also have additional valid concerns about wanting a roof on the stadium, increasing the seating capacity, the presence of an adjacent convention center, and whether the stadium could host a Super Bowl. If those are potential concerns of yours, I encourage you to support the “South Park Site” plan for a stadium in the city, because all of those variables are far more likely to come to fruition if the stadium goes in the City of Buffalo, with the plan of it being the centerpiece of a larger city planning project that massively improves public transportation, stimulates residential and commercial development, and leads to the net long-term growth of Buffalo and Erie County both economically and socially for generations to come.

I encourage all of you to think critically about what is at stake here for the long-term future of Buffalo and Erie County, and consider how this will not only affect you, but your neighbor and your children.  Look past the fact that taxpayer money is being used, because like it or not, that is the reality of doing business with the NFL. Instead, focus on demanding that our elected officials fight to use our money to create a stadium and city planning project that best serves the needs of the community that is paying for the it both now and in the future. After doing so, I hope you will see that a stadium in the city, specifically at the “South Park Site,” is the only logical choice. 

If you agree please take a moment to SIGN the petition below (and more importantly) SHARE it with others so that our collective voice can be heard!

www.change.org/BringTheBillsBackToTheCity 

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My Place Buffalo opens a Lounge for Moms

Kelly Dever

A lot of great ideas are born out of dire necessity. For Kelly Dever, founder of My Place Buffalo, she experienced “mommy burnout” as a young mother, which is when she got to thinking about how things might be easier, or at least more relaxing and enjoyable (instead of frantic). As a mother, she was being pulled in ten directions at once, dealing with feedings, chauffeuring, laundry, outfits, mail, cleaning, dishes, temper tantrums, diapers, playtime… the list went on and on. Where was her alone time? When could she sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee? Spend time with friends? Watch a show? Or eat a decent meal?

Mommy burnout can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of identity after having children.

On her frustrations with finding a way to sufficiently recharge, Dever said, “After becoming a stay-at-home mother, it became nearly impossible for me to find time to recharge and be the best version of myself. When I did get out of the house, I would usually end up at Target aimlessly wandering the aisles, spending money on things I didn’t actually need!”

The answer?

My Place Buffalo.

My Place Buffalo began as weekly get-together for mothers, for coffee hours and pop-up events. Kelly did this by teaming up with local businesses. For example, cake decorating with Farm Fresh Living, and a braidbar with Braidbabes at Alchemy Wine & Beer. She event hosted “speed dating” – networking for mom friends (aka Mom Friends Forever).

All of these successful – and empowering – pop-ups have now led Kelly to establishing a reliable “pilot location,” which she is calling The My Place Lounge. The “one stop destination for every mom’s self-care needs” will soon open on the 3rd floor of 22 Main Street in Hamburg (above The Grange Community Kitchen). Members will enjoy socialization, empathetic understanding, compassionate nurturing, networking, problem solving, as well as programming that will include guest speakers, workshops, and community care.

Personally, my hope for this new business model is that it is one of many to open in years to come. Every community in Buffalo could benefit from this sort of initiative. In fact, according to Kelly, her hope is to open a more permanent space by spring of 2022. In that location, each room will come equipped with a different self-care amenity, including a home gym, full kitchen, full bath with a jacuzzi tub and steam shower, craft space, library, gathering spaces, a private spot for yoga/meditation, and more.  

Currently, Kelly is embarking upon a crowdfunding campaign through IFundwomen, that will launch on October 22.

The My Place lounge is a gathering place for relaxation, rejuvenation, and human connection.

In the meantime, My Place Buffalo will hold an open house on October 22, from 4pm – 8pm in conjunction with launching of the crowdfunding campaign. See Facebook event.

Get connected: www.myplacebuffalo.com

My Place Lounge Memberships are available for purchase now, for as low as $50/month or day passes for $20. For more information, visit www.myplacebuffalo.com or follow along on Instagram & Facebook at @myplacebuffalo.

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WellNow Urgent Care Opens on Elmwood

WellNow Urgent Care has opened at the southeast corner of Elmwood Avenue and Amherst Street.  The 3,500 sq.ft., one-story building replace two aging commercial buildings along Elmwood Avenue and two residential structures at 709 and 711 Amherst Street.

 

The project received a variance for the maximum width of a side yard: 83 feet where 30 feet maximum is normally permitted. Silvestri Architects designed the project.

WellNow Urgent Care is one of the fastest-growing providers of urgent medical care, telehealth and occupational health services in the United States, with more than 90 centers across New York, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

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Un-Mappings: New Works In/For Outdoor Space

This past August, Null Point presented ‘Art Music Uncomposed‘ on the front lawn of Kleinhans Music Hall. As an encore to that show, the group – a platform for experimental music – plans on continuing the series next summer.

By design, Null Point presents events and projects in a range of institutional settings: arts institutions, community organizations, universities, and architectural repurposing projects.

In the meantime, they have a new series that they are launching at a vacant lot on the city’s West Side – 450 Rhode Island Street (on corner with 18th Street) aka Sublot 37 (lead image).

“Art and activism,” answered Founding artistic director Colin Tucker, when I asked him what was driving the project. “To get people thinking about the politics of space, when music is presented in unconventional spaces. It’s the intersection of music and location, based on contemporary art – site-specific art. We’re focusing on the 60’s and 70’s – reconstructing a variety of pieces that were written during that era. We’re performing a piece by David Dunn (an acoustic ecologist) that has never been performed. And works from a number of artists known as Fluxes (Yoko Ono, for example), with open-ended scores.

Colin Tucker’s work – banal aggression/aggressive banality for lawn, audio, and linguistic annotations

“We’re also focusing on the relationship between colonial-based politics and carbon-based infrastructure. It’s a vacant lot, but it’s also colonial European private property. It brings up the politics of urban space.

Megan Kyle’s piece – Soggy Music, for participants (water, and interactive audio)

“It’s been interesting to work with that space – our last work was a piece on the musical representations of water. We had a pool of water that participants could manipulate with musical samples. Art, music, and water. It’s the longstanding investigative relationship between the aesthetic and the everyday. What makes something everyday, and why?”

Colin Tucker’s work – banal aggression/aggressive banality for lawn, audio, and linguistic annotations

The new Null Point series, which is already underway, is titled Un-mappings.

‘Un-mappings’ features public presentations of Null Point’s newest work in development. This work focuses on excavating and dismantling racial-colonial-bourgeois spatial politics through experimental music techniques such as open scores, interactive and embedded audio, and archival investigations. Set in an open lot on Buffalo’s near-West Side, the events take this outdoor, public space (occupied Seneca land) not as an incidental backdrop but as an integral component of their fabric. 

Null Point is a musical research group founded in 2014 and based on Seneca/Haudenosaunee territories.

Details:

October 6, 3-7pm: Music by Megan Kyle and Colin Tucker
October 20, 4-7pm: Music by Colin Tucker and Yoko Ono
October 27, 4-7pm: details TBA

Free to attend

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The Return of Clayton’s Toys

When I was a young boy, my toy store was Clayton’s on Elmwood Avenue. Going to Clayton’s with my parents was a magical experience – one that I still vividly remember to this day. I recall standing in front of the glass cases, filled will all sorts of fascinating toys. To leave with a coveted prize… there was nothing else quite like it.

When Clayton’s (since 1916) eventually closed up shop on Elmwood, and moved to Williamsville, I was distraught. Not that I was interested in toys anymore. Rather, it signaled that the city was going downhill, which frightened me. How could a city that I loved so much be losing so much? What would become of Buffalo, as more stores closed, or relocated to the outskirts? Would I even stick around to see the bottom fall out?

Thankfully, the bottom never fell out, although it was pretty darn close. The city was miraculously saved by the diehard people that fought tooth and nail to protect it. The other day, I was talking to a girl from Pittsburgh who told me that she absolutely loved Buffalo because everyone was so upbeat about the city, which she said was its best attribute. I told her it was because we lost half of our population – the people that left weren’t the biggest fans, so what we have remaining is a city filled with residents who are diehard supports and activists. She found that fascinating.

Getting back to the Clayton’s story, eventually Buffalo landed TreeHouse toy store, which also became a Buffalo institution. But as we are all aware, TreeHouse recently closed its doors on Elmwood Avenue, resulting in, once again, a city without a quality toy store.

Clayton’s is the oldest continuously run toy store in America.  

It is interesting to note that Clayton’s did attempt an urban comeback in 2015, when they established an outpost at HarborCenter. Unfortunately, that part of Buffalo was not ready for a toy store, although if they had waited a few more years… you never know, with the advent of the children’s museum, the carousel, the Ferris wheel, etc.

Regardless, I am happy to report that Clayton’s has signed up for a second retail location on Hertel Avenue, where they will reportedly open at the former ‘room’ location. ‘room’ is heading across the street, reopening as The Monocle. That move will leave 6000 square feet available, which will be divided into two separate spaces – Clayton’s Toys will occupy 1500 square feet, while the rest is being leased to Monroe MedSpa.

Hearing that Clayton’s will, once again, be open in a dedicated, full-fledge space in North Buffalo… well, it brings back a lot of nostalgic memories of a place that was always mystical and magical. I can’t bear thinking about a Buffalo without a toy store of this nature. Good for Clayton’s to buck the trends of internet shopping. Now, it’s going to be up to us, as a city, to wholeheartedly get behind this legendary Buffalo business, to support them in any way that we can. That means, walking, biking, or driving (away from our computers) to champion a business that has ‘got our back,’ again.

And for all of the children that will actually get a chance to walk into this wondrous setting, as I did when I was a child, I can already see the eyes widening, the smiles turning upwards, and the sounds of laughter as they romp down Hertel Avenue on their way to their next big shopping adventure.

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Big Deal: Jemal Submits Highest Bid for Mahoney

In what shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, Douglas Jemal submitted the high bid for the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building located at 65 Court Street next to his Statler building.  He beat out eight bidders at this morning’s auction with a $4.1 million bid.  The NYS Office of General Services worked with CBRE Buffalo on the sale that had a minimum bid amount set at $750,000.

According to The Buffalo News, Jemal plans to spend $20 million to turn the building into a 60-room boutique hotel.  The five floor, Green & Wicks designed building opened in 1931 and contains approximately 69,000 sq.ft. of space.

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2022 Landscape Maintenance Technician Training Program

One of the things that Buffalo could use a lot more of are, better landscapes. We have a dynamite park system, miles of waterfront, aspiring commercial corridors, but there is a lack of professionals that are adequately prepared to take care of it all.

Thankfully, the Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology (BCAT) is collaborating with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) and The Riverline to provide motivated people with access to a Landscape Maintenance Technician training program. The program – funded by KeyBank, the First Niagara Foundation, and a national foundation – offers tuition-free training in middle skills careers, thus providing a work-ready pipeline of candidates. 

“BCAT’s partnership with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and The Riverline demonstrates a successful collaboration between three Buffalo-based nonprofits committed to our community’s economic and social growth,” said Gina Burkhardt, CEO, BCAT. “This unique program creates job opportunities that strengthen the local workforce and provide essential work-readiness skills to City of Buffalo residents.  We appreciate KeyBank’s continued investment in our community.”

“KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation are proud to support this program and this unique collaboration between two dynamic, important organizations in our community,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Director of KeyBank Foundation and the First Niagara Foundation. “This program directly aligns with KeyBank’s commitment to education and workforce development that improves the lives of program participants. We applaud the efforts of Gina Burkhardt and Stephanie Crockatt who designed this creative collaboration.  It is a great example of how we can build on the strengths of existing programs and work together to create opportunities for our community to gain productive and meaningful employment.”

With more public landscapes coming online all the time, including waterfront parks and The Riverline, not to mention the existing parks that always need round the clock landscape upkeep, Buffalo needs to step up its game when it comes to how it’s all cared for, and how it is presented to the public. The expectation is, that by providing these workforce candidates with the knowledge and tools that they need to get the job done, Buffalo as a whole will be a benefactor in years to come.

The program includes:

60 hours of educational instruction offered in the classrooms at BCAT
In-field training and a 4-week paid internship within the City of Buffalo’s historic Olmsted park system, with support from Conservancy staff
The in-house curriculum includes technical coursework on the park system history, horticulture, landscaping techniques, safety precautions, plus equipment and material uses
BCAT provides a minimum of 20 hours of instruction on work-readiness skills to ensure students are equipped to enter the workforce and be better prepared for promotions and/or upskilling opportunities

“We were given hands-on education with a lot of equipment that I probably never would have seen in my lifetime had it not been for this program,” said Darren Cotton, Class of 2021. “I’m thankful for those skill-building activities as well as meeting people who are involved in the stewardship and care of the Olmsted Park System and seeing how much people are passionate about these spaces and the importance of them to the city.”

Have you ever visited a city that shows off its landscaped public areas? Between lack of funding and lack of trained professionals, Buffalo could use some help when it comes to how it presents itself. We should be taking more pride in our outward appearance. This program, now in its second year, is a good start towards reaching loftier goals. We need to get back to the days of greatness, when Buffalo was considered ‘The City of Trees,’ and our parks were glorious – not just great, but glorious.

It would be nice to see even more partners (like McKinley High School’s horticulture program) joining this group in years to come, in order to take the initiative to another level entirely. This is an excellent starting point, however.

“The Conservancy hires over 55 supporting field staff each year to help care for and maintain Buffalo’s historic Olmsted-designed green spaces,” said Stephanie Crockatt, BOPC Executive Director. “With park usage escalating, the need for skilled labor is high. Together with BCAT, we are strengthening the local labor force, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fulfilling the Conservancy’s mission of preserving and maintaining our historic park system for current and future generations. We thank all partners and funders for this proactive opportunity.”

“The Riverline is thrilled to be part of this exciting project this year,” said Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, which administers The Riverline. “Thanks to support from a national funder, The Riverline is part of a five-city pilot project that includes similar infrastructure reuse projects across the country. Since the early days of planning for The Riverline, one of our stated goals was the equitable development of the surrounding communities. This workforce development program, in partnership with BCAT and the Olmsted Conservancy, will go a long way toward reaching this goal.”

More information and applications for the Landscape Management Technician training program are available and can be found here. BCAT will be accepting 15-20 applicants in classes running from January to April in 2022. This training timeline will ensure that program graduates are work-ready and able to support the park and general landscaping season from April through October each year. 

For more information about the Landscape Maintenance Technician program, please visit buffaloartstechcenter.org/apply-now.

Lead image: MLK Greenhouse (circa 1907)

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PostEvents

The Quest for the Apple Cider Doughnut

Some foods only taste right during certain seasons. There’s nothing stopping me from eating a hot dog in January, but it just tastes better with a side of warm summer breeze in mid-July. The same goes for apple cider paired with doughnuts; autumn just seems to bring out the duo’s true flavor. But somewhere along the line, someone committed an act of sheer genius by literally combining these two things together, and the result was sweet perfection.

Enter – the apple cider doughnut.

There are some variations, but a traditional cider doughnut has a cakey texture, flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. Apple cider is the star of the show, serving as the main wet ingredient mixed right into the batter. They’re fried and each side is generously coated with cinnamon and sugar.

#InTheBUF photo by @buffalobrummie

On a mission to find the best cider doughnut in WNY, I spent a crisp autumn morning doing some research with my significant other, who moonlights as a doughnut aficionado. The result was not one, but two spots where we enjoyed some of the best apple cider doughnuts WNY has to offer: Duke’s Donuts and Mayer Brothers.

Many western New Yorkers know Mayer Brothers’ 170-year old tradition of pumping out most of the apple cider sold in North America. The Mayer Brothers Cider Mill Store located in West Seneca is only open during certain months of the year, so the line at the door was filled with anticipation as the cider-deprived waited patiently. Inside, the payoff is big and apple cider-themed, including cases of fresh cider doughnuts. If variety is your thing, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Cider donuts are available in glazed, sugared, frosted with cream cheese or chocolate, as well as a generous assortment of non-cider doughnut options. My pick was the traditional sugar coated apple cider doughnut. It was soft with a drier texture, not too sweet with a hint of cinnamon. A crowd pleaser.

Photos by Duke’s Donuts

Duke’s Donuts  does not have a brick-and-mortar shop. Since 2013, owners Chad Longman and his wife Aimee have been taking their doughnut gig on the road all over western New York, so you’ll likely catch them at a farmer’s market, community event or even at a Buffalo Bills game. We tracked them down at a local outdoor market where we learned that Aimee’s grandfather “Duke” was the inspiration for their “Apple Cider Donut” (which is available all year round.) The Duke’s experience is less about fanfare and much more intimate. The batter for their two varieties, Old Fashioned Apple Cider and Raised Sugar is made on site, dropped into a portable fryer, sugar-coated by hand and presented to you in just a few minutes’ time. The end game is a warm, flavorful, velvety and just dense enough doughnut that (pardon the cliché) melts in your mouth. My personal favorite.

Go ahead and eat your turkey dinner in April. Just promise that you’ll reserve the cider doughnuts for when the leaves start to fall.

The post The Quest for the Apple Cider Doughnut appeared first on Visit Buffalo Niagara.

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PostEvents

Laguna Ave: “If Waters Made Robocop.”

Today is a pretty big day for the Buffalo film scene. It’s the kickoff for the 15th Annual Buffalo International Film Festival (see full lineup).

In recent days, I’ve received a lot of emails pertaining to the films that are being screened. Therefore, I’ve been watching a number of trailers, and even got to check out an online pre-screening for one of the highly anticipated releases – the US premiere of her film Laguna Ave, which is being premiered this evening at the North Park Theatre at 9:30pm.

I recently learned that the producer of Laguna Ave, Alison “Ali” Barone, is not only a Buffalo native, she’s also the daughter of Tralf owner Tom Barone.

“I am back home here in Buffalo promoting, and looking forward to seeing my movie at a such a gorgeous theater from my childhood,” said Ali. “We just premiered (in London) at the end of August.”

^ In this charmingly campy, lo-fi sci-fi comedy, a disaffected former musician is drawn into the mysterious and sinister world of his downstairs neighbor.

 

While I’m no film critic, I’ve watched my fair share of bizarro pictures, from Hardcore Henry to Singapore Sling to Tetsuo: The Iron Man. The stranger the better. When someone told me that Squid Games was off the chain, I told him that I was relatively unphased, due to my desensitization from watching so many crazy films over the years. Films such as The Lighthouse, Black Moon, Dogtooth, Bad Boy Bubby, Zardoz, Rubber, Spider Baby, Liquid Sky, Blue Sunshine, Greaser’s Palace, and so on. And those are some of the more toned down ones that I have come across. There’s some crazy stuff out there!

So when I was offered to pre-screen Laguna Ave, I took them up on the offer. Since I don’t want to give anything away – I love knowing zippo about a film before I watch it – I will only say that if you have a chance to make it to the screening this evening, you won’t be disappointed – especially if you love over-the-top films with wacko plotlines.

I would definitely add Laguna Ave to my zany film collection.

Critics have described it as if “John Waters directed Tetsuo” and a “cult classic in the making.”

OFFICIAL US PREMIERE FILM SCREENING OF LAGUNA AVE, WITH FILMMAKER Q&A

David Buchanan (Dir), 80 minutes

Stars James Markham Hall Jr, Russell Steinberg and Sheridan Ward; Producer and Writer Paul Papadeas; and Producer Alison Barone in attendance.

See online reviews (but try not to read any spoilers)

IMDB

Website

Tickets on sale for physical screening

Tickets for sale for digital screening

Bonus: On Friday, October 8th, Tom Barone is hosting a party for the film at the Tralf Music Hall, which is named for the fictitious planet of Kurt Vonnegut’s stories, who also honors New York with the equally fictitious town of Ilium.

Tickets and passes are on sale now at WWW.BUFFALOFILM.ORG including the all-access Bison Pass ($45) and Triptych Virtual (3 virtual screenings for $20). Individual tickets to live screenings with filmmaker Q+As are $12 and virtual screenings are $9.

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PostEvents

The Great Batavia Train Show – Fall 2021

During a recent excursion to “Retro Block,” I came across a model train aficionado by the name of Peter Karlinski, who told me about “the train show of all model train shows.” At least in Western NY, that is. As we were discussing train setups, I asked him whether he attended the annual train show at the Central Terminal. His answer? “If you want to go to the best train show around, then you can’t miss the Batavia Train Show.”

THE place to buy trains for over 40 years!

While I’m a fan of model train sets, I must say that I don’t attend the shows, because I don’t have a train set anymore. But I’ve always been fascinated by train sets, and I still have a few old engines and cars proudly displayed in my garage. And whenever I come across a fascinating operational train set, such as the Buffalo History Museum or at The Mulberry Tree (where Peter is a shopkeeper, and model train set operator), I get a real kick out of examining the intricacies of the layouts. 

Peter’s setup at The Mulberry Tree in Tonawanda – He specializes in Lionel postwar trains and accessories

After Peter explained that the Batavia Train Show was the cat’s meow of train show, he told me that he would send me a letter (he’s old school) with a flyer inside. Keeping his promise, I received the flyer, and a handwritten letter in the mail, which provided me with all of the information pertaining to the show.

Batavia Train Show

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Richard C. Call Arena

At Genesee Community College

9:30am to 3:30pm

Donation: $6 | Under 18 years: $3 | Under 13 years: Free

This is the first big post-pandemic train show, with more vendors and model trains featured in a new modern facility, with plenty of parking and a snack bar.

Follow signs from Exit 48 on the NYS thruway to the College @ 1 College Road in Batavia, NY 14020

The show is presented by the Genesee Society of Model Engineers | PO Box 75 | Oakfield, NY 14125

Email: bataviatrainshow@gsme.org | Also visit www.gsme.org, or Facebook

Lead image courtesy Genesee Society of Model Engineers

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