There are two pieces of good news with Bass Pro's recent statement that it remains interested in putting a store in downtown Buffalo.
The first is that Bass Pro remains interested, even though only two weeks remain in the locally imposed deadline tofinalize a contract. The second is that only two weeksremain. Either Buffalo will finally land this big fish or cut it loose and cast its net in more productive waters. The first would be better but at this point, either will do.
The tale of Bass Pro has been in the writing for more than five years. But even after months of negotiations, after the promise of millions of dollars in public investment and after the company's signed statement of intent, no deal is in place.
The store, pitched as a magnet that would draw shoppers from hundreds of miles away, was envisioned as the centerpiece of a waterfront revitalization plan. But now, with a local development agency in charge of the waterfront and armed with millions of dollars and a long-range development plan, it is time for a decision.
Bass Pro could still be a crucial part of the plan, a center around which other commercial development could grow. Even if the chain's own growth has diminished its allure, as some observers say, it would still draw many visitors who would also find other attractions, including a planned Great Lakes museum -- not to mention, only a block away, an actual Great Lake. And it would be fun and useful for Western New Yorkers, themselves.
But the store isn't essential. Development is. Buffalo needs to get moving on a real waterfront plan, whether Bass Pro is part of it or not.
Indeed, it's healthy that the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., acting on Mayor Byron W. Brown's recommendation, started a clock ticking on this long-simmering project. The city's psyche has been wounded many times by developers who don't come through; this time, Buffalo is controlling its own future.
We hope Bass Pro will be part of this project. But whether it is or not, things are looking up for Buffalo's long-suffering waterfront.
If the store leaders can't find a way to make this generous deal work, then it's time for everyone to move on.