Concerns that construction of a 23-story apartment project on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor will set some sort of undesirable precedent should not outweigh the good it will bring to a rundown piece of property.
The developer’s plan calls for demolition of the Freezer Queen building on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor and construction of the apartment tower.
Local activists who feel they have been ignored during public hearings have filed a lawsuit demanding the private project be put on hold until further studies can be completed.
The group accuses the developer, Queen City Landing, and the city’s Planning Board and Common Council of “acting in concert to ‘fast track’ approval of the project.” It was first presented to the Planning Board three months ago. The group contends that zoning and environmental impact requirements were ignored.
However, the Planning Board held hearings on the project’s possible impact on that part of the waterfront, its wildlife and aesthetics. Opponents objected on a number of issues, including what they called “the inappropriateness of the scale of the tower.”
After due deliberation, the Planning Board gave the project its go-ahead. While the apartment building is clearly something new for the Outer Harbor and is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is acceptable under the guidance for that part of the waterfront.
The Outer Harbor totals 450 acres. the Queen City Landing project will be on the 20 acres of land where this type of development is encouraged. This part of the Outer Harbor is not parkland. To the south is the Small Boat Harbor. Directly north are the the huge Port Terminals A and B.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, opposed earlier efforts of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to build on the northern portion of the property near Wilkeson Pointe. They have maintained that residential/commercial/mixed-use development should be limited to the sites of Freezer Queen and Terminals A and B, where industrial development has been concentrated historically. If those spaces are all developed, there still remains 450 acres of land at the Outer Harbor, the vast majority of which will be open space and parkland in perpetuity.
The Queen City Landing project went through the city planning process and the Common Council as required, and received good support.
Rather than block one of the city’s largest private construction projects, the push should be to position Buffalo to sustain the progress occurring on the waterfront and enhance its appeal as a destination for recreational activity of all stripes.
For an example of what not to do, look at Waterfront Village, which was constructed with little concern for the public’s ability to enjoy the waterfront.
By contrast, the Freezer Queen proposal includes generous public access. Its two restaurants indicate that patrons are expected from boats and from land.
Rather than trying to keep the public out of some prime real estate, this developer is encouraging visitors to come in. The project is designed to be built well away from Lake Erie, allowing the public to get right up the the water’s edge.
This property has been abandoned for more than a decade. It is unsafe and unsanitary. The last thing anyone should want is to leave it alone to deteriorate even further.
The Freezer Queen project will complement other strides in the area, including Gallagher Beach, a new state park and a newly energized Tifft Nature Preserve, whose visitor rate has more than doubled from last year. If successful, the project may encourage developers to tackle the Port Terminals.
This small piece of the Outer Harbor has been heavily commercialized for decades. A dramatic apartment tower can only improve the property.