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From IKEA to implosion, ideas for Aud

I asked, you answered.

More than 150 folks responded (mostly by e-mail) to the question posed in last Sunday's column: What to do with Memorial Auditorium?

Sporting goods megastore Bass Pro has cut bait. Talk now is of a scaled-down Bass Pro elsewhere in the inner harbor. Which leaves us with a mammoth, bunkerlike building on the downtown waterfront.

The most popular solution from readers: Knock it down.

Suggestions (whether the Aud stays or goes) ranged from numerous calls for an IKEA, the popular Swedish-based furniture store, to cries for an indoor splash park and/or children's museum. Here is a sampling of some, and thanks to all who answered the call.

Mr. Esmonde: How about an implosion party for the Aud? First sell the old seats to sports-crazy fans. Then hire AC/DC to play "T.N.T." as the Aud [comes down]. While we are at it, [implode] the Skyway at the same time. -- J.K., West Seneca.

Dear J.K.: Are you sure your name isn't Brian Higgins? But seriously, it sounds good to me.

Mr. Esmonde: Move the Convention Center to the Aud, tear down the current Convention Center and we could link Genesee Street to Niagara Square once again. -- J.D.

Dear J.D.: It kills two birds with one stone and feeds the revival of downtown.

Mr. Esmonde: Turn the Aud into a Political Hall of Shame. Inscribe the lies and broken promises we've been fed by local politicians and "development leaders" on the long hallways. -- M.D.

Dear M.D.: Hey, just because the waterfront looks like a vacant lot, the Convention Center was obsolete the day it opened and the Signature Bridge still is not in sight is no reason to get cynical. Then again, maybe it is. But seriously, what I've seen the past couple of years makes me think better days are coming.

Mr. Esmonde: In place [of the Aud] they should rebuild the Spaulding Exchange building that stood on the site until the 1930s. It contained office space, retail shops and restaurants, and reflected the period of Buffalo's heyday. -- A.M.L.

Dear A.M.L. -- I've seen pictures of the Spaulding Exchange, and it fits perfectly with the plan for mixed-use, 19th century-style buildings in the "Canal Side" district.

Mr. Esmonde: The Aud should be torn down and . . . we should recruit an IKEA store for the site. Our depressed economy could benefit from the jobs and affordable, contemporary [furniture] products. -- M.T.

Dear M.T.: The store could be a nice retail anchor and people draw for the canal district. My fear is IKEA is a one-stop, back-in-the-car deal. If we do retail, Elmwood-style smaller stores give the site an urban feel and invite folks to linger.

Mr. Esmonde: Turn the Aud into an indoor water park, add a children's museum, make it all kid-friendly and [families] will come. -- J.K., Amherst

Dear J.K.: Whether the Aud stays or goes, we ought to think about this as an entertainment draw. Folks who don't ski are house-bound (or mall-bound) during the long cold-weather months. Rochester's children's museum and San Francisco's Exploratorium are models of family-attracting magnets.

Mr. Esmonde: Take the roof off, replace it with a glazed skylight and it would make a fabulous downtown shopping center with multiple levels. -- A.S.

Dear A.S.: Maybe. But it sounds like something we've already got -- Main Place Mall. Look how that turned out.

Mr. Esmonde: The site should be used for entertainment and specialty shops that would complement the Erie Canal Harbor project. -- J.Z.

Dear J.Z.: Our history of "silver bullet" failures argues that the best ideas are small, not big. The recent "Canal Side" master plan includes much of what you describe. And, believe it or not, we actually have money for it.


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