Buffalo floats toward new opportunities for water-based seasonal business

From Canalside to the Outer Harbor, Buffalo’s waterfront is growing with new events and businesses.  

The waterfront has a long and proud history marked by heavy industry. Buffalo’s proximity to the Erie Canal brought booming business to the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with shipping in the west and commercial and financial centers on the east end. The canal district stood at the center of the city's growth and development in the 19th century. The Inner Harbor was an exchange point for goods and culture, while the Outer Harbor was home to the industrial sites which brought numerous jobs to the city. 

Deindustrialization followed, and the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel marked the beginning of an economic downturn. For a time, Buffalonians turned away from their waterfront. But with recent efforts spearheaded by the Green Code's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, modern Buffalo is in the midst of an economic and cultural reinvention of the city’s waterfronts.

Today, you will find newly constructed hotels, summer concerts, and food festivals. You’ll also find entrepreneurs leveraging these assets with tours of the Buffalo river and nearby silos, cocktail cruises, restaurants, water bikes, and more. Here are 17 ways to patronize these businesses and enjoy the waterfront.

Since 2013 Buffalo has integrated more than $19 billion in construction projects, including the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront, according to the city of Buffalo's website. Strategic public investments in parks and amenities have spurred private investment, and business startups have followed.

Canalside is the centerpiece of this effort. The waterfront’s revival has brought a half billion in private development surrounding Canalside including the HarborCenter (home of the Buffalo Sabres) and (716) Food & Sport, where sports fans can indulge with a 38-foot TV screen.Open throughout the year, patrons can participate in the winter with an outdoor rink accommodated with skate rentals and a concession lodge. During the summer the waterfront hosts a concert series, food trucks, and other entertainment. 

Last year more than 1.5 million people partook in the waterfront’s summertime amenities. Construction growth has included $30 million in renovations at One Canalside, which includes office space, retail, and a Marriott hotel. Three more buildings are in the works, including an Explore and More Children’s Museum.

Beyond downtown, the Outer Harbor waterfront and areas of the Buffalo river are also under development. Buffalo River Landing and the 301 Ohio building are two newly developed residential buildings along the river, with construction totaling $27 million. Wilkeson Pointe, at the Outer Harbor, provides rentals for bikes, kayak and stand up paddle boards, a beer garden, and numerous other amenities.

Buffalo is not the only Rust Belt-era city taking advantage of its long-abandoned waterfront. Look to nearby city Cleveland, where rowers and sailors (and the businesses that support them) are being encouraged with new facilities along the Cuyahoga River. The Lakefront West Project is using bike and pathways to connect the west side neighborhoods with the lakefront, and the Edgewater Park beach house will provide a new concession stand for citizens. Additionally, the Detroit waterfront has transformed itself from a derelict warehouse district to a recreational hub for residents and tourists, led by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. More than five miles of land will be transformed into a walkway with access to parks, plazas and pathways to green spaces.

So get out there and enjoy the blue, Buffalo!

Next week's Buffalo Float on Sunday, Aug. 6, a community event for locals with kayaks and canoes, is designed to celebrate the revitalization of the waterfront. The event, hosted by Buffalo Paddle People and Camp Good Days and Special Times Inc., and will take place from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Buffalo Riverworks, located at 359 Ganson St.

Read more articles by Alicia Greco.

Alicia Greco is passionate about writing, music, and her community. She is the founder/editor of internationally recognized music website Sequencer, and has been published locally through buffaBLOG, The Public, The Buffalo News, and more.
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