When Chris Ostrander sharply criticizes the placemaking fraud that has has supplanted top-down planning with a bottom-up feelings-based lack of planning, he is exactly correct. Deck chairs, hot dog shacks, and happy feelings aren’t going to organically develop the inner harbor, and I’ve written before that all we’ve done is nominally exchange a political/business elite planning scheme for a cultural elite planning scheme.
I disagree, however, with Ostrander’s criticism of the proposed Children’s Museum. Such a museum will involve an outlay of public money for construction, and likely will be operated by a well-respected current operator of a children’s museum facility – Explore and More – that is in deep need of a new facility. Ostrander writes:
I’m condemning the thought of trading the space previously reserved for Bass Pro for a children’s museum. My problem with Bass Pro was that the store wouldn’t capture an entire audience nor cohesively bring the neighborhood together. Now the approach is to use the plan with the least amount of risk. Literally. This plan is being adopted because there is little, to no risk involved. Instead of taking a major step and hitting a home run, Buffalo will be forced to accept a sacrifice bunt, just to advance the runners.
Ostrander misapprehends the size and scope of the Children’s Museum, and what is to happen with the Aud Block and the “space previously reserved for Bass Pro”.
Regardless of the solar carousel vs. Bass Pro argument, Canalside needs to be a 4-seasons, all-ages place to go. I’m not a fan of the whole “story of Buffalo” programming BS that’s suffused the whole project, but Ostrander is misstating the extent of the Children’s Museum in his piece.
The image above is a rendering of the current plan for the Aud Block; it isn’t going to be replaced with another huge building fitting its footprint. What was once the Aud will be chopped up into smaller parcels, footpaths, and canal-shaped reflecting pools. The Children’s Museum – pretty much the only cultural programming at Canalside that I think isn’t a horrible joke – will only take up a small portion of that location, and that’s ok.
Turning the “story of Buffalo” into a 4D motion ride and costumed people strolling around what should be a shopping & entertainment district is what deserves criticism. Moving Explore ‘n More to the Inner Harbor is one of the better ideas to have come from all of this idiotic turmoil.