There are details yet to be sorted out and reasonable public concerns need to be heard, but this much is certain: Gerald Buchheit has proposed a waterfront development that suits its peninsula location at 975 Fuhrmann Blvd., adds value to Buffalo and makes far better use of its 20 acres than its industrial zoning permits. This project should be shepherded, not obstructed.
Queen City Landing was first proposed more than 12 years ago, From the get-go it has generated the opposition of purists – this is Buffalo – and even after revisions, continues to be a target. It’s a shame because Buchheit’s plan is both striking and welcome.
The latest iteration of the plan projects a four-stage development that would begin with a 20-story, mixed-use tower of 477,000 square feet on 6.83 acres. While that height is greater than the city’s Green Code allows, its setbacks are also greater than zoning requires and its waterfront areas – like those of the entire development – will be open to the public. It would include 206 apartments with water views both on both its north and south sides.
The second phase would include a 2.5-acre parcel to be returned to a more natural state, complementing the park lands of the adjacent Outer Harbor. The third phase would include two six-story buildings on 3.11 acres featuring residential space as well as restaurants and retail outlets, while the final stage would include eight clusters of three-story townhouses.
Among the project’s supporters is Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who has spent years advocating for the city’s waterfront. He notes that while Queen City Landing will occupy 20 acres of waterfront, the Outer Harbor otherwise contains 780 acres of natural waterfront.
That’s nearly as much as New York City’s Central Park or Buffalo’s own Olmsted parks, including its parkways and circles. The waterfront is not lacking for park space and park space is only one of the assets the public should seek on its waterfront.
What is more, Buchheit demolished the monstrous and derelict Freezer Queen building that marred the landscape, cleared the property and spent millions of dollars cleaning it of contamination. He could legally return the land to industrial use, but instead plans a development that will be attractive to both the residents who live there and the public that can enjoy its waterfront promenades, shops and restaurants.
Opponents want nothing there. They want it restored to its natural condition, made into the southern tip of the Outer Harbor’s park lands. Like many in Buffalo, we support waterfront parks. They make for a fine, even necessary, escape from the pressures urban life can impose.
But variety is also a valuable commodity and, with 780 acres of waterfront land already dedicated to that purpose, Buchheit’s project adds a different and welcome dimension. Among its advantages, Higgins believes, is its ability to attract boaters whom he sees as an important addition to the city’s recreational economy.
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. once proposed a significant housing component to development of the Outer Harbor. Many critics, including this page, opposed that plan, seeing it as a misuse of public waterfront acreage, especially when downtown Buffalo was desperate for the kind of density that makes cities cost-effective and attractive.
That land is now being appropriately managed and the proposed Queen City Landing is on private property, not public. On its own, the project makes for a fine, complementary use of this land and a far better one than its industrial zoning allows. Reasonable concerns should always be heard, but the goal here should be to help this project along.
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