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City of Night Shines Spotlight on Grain Elevators' Future

Minneapolis, Baltimore and Akron Ohio (pictured above from L to R) are just a few of the cities that have successfully transformed their vacant grain elevators into usable apartments , hotels. offices, and other uses. But in the city that invented the elevator, Buffalo has had less success in redevelopment and have opted in recent years for using them as public spaces with outdoor art, music and lighting. 

With the second annual "City of Night" events Saturday off Ohio Street, WBEN.com and Buffalo's Early News take a look at the elevators' future Friday morning. 

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Silo City will be the place to be Saturday evening. The second annual City of Night event will celebrate the past and the future with a combination of lights on the old grain silos, and performances around the,

Event coordinator Dana Saylor says there will be live music from 4pm to 2am in a former industrial space called the Amphitheater. "There's an art fair in the American Warehouse building full of local artists selling their wares, in addition to a light garden of installations you'll see," says Saylor.


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What Should Be Done With the City's Old Grain Elevators?
Tear Them Down
( 61% )
Leave Them Be
( 13% )
Develop Hotels or Housing
( 25% )

Saylor says you can also get a preview of the rock climbing facility Silo City ROCKS. "They're not complete and ready for operation yet, but they're going to have a Guinness record height rock climbing wall on the exterior of one of the grain elevators," explains Saylor.

Saylor says the grain elevators are marvels in engineering. "Silo City and other reinforced concrete grain elevators around influenced the modernist architecture movement. In 1925, there were French and German architects being influenced by Silo City," says Saylor.

Visitors will have the option to meet up with guides from GOBike Buffalo at a downtown hub and park their bikes at the bicycle valet.
They can also ride the Queen City Ferry on a narrated round trip from Canalside to Silo City.

 Earlier Coverage

The  Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp has approved spending $5 million for the first phase of a light show project in Buffalo- shining colored lights and projecting moving images on the city's somewhat abandoned grain elevators .

The effort would provide for  a permanent year-round light show on a grain elevator along the Buffalo River and on several bridges. The project is expected to open next summer or fall.

The next phase of the project is to illuminate 13 more grain elevators as public art.

The illumination project is expected to bring tourist activity to the city's waterfront during off times of the year. It will be overseen by Ambiances Design Productions, which has drawn international acclaim for its public art display on a grain elevator in Quebec City.


From the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.:

In March, ECHDC approved a phased master plan to install various lighting installations within Buffalo’s impressive collection of Grain Elevators and Bridges. This significant project is now moving into implementation of Phase 1.  These structures serve as a reminder of Buffalo’s industrial and commercial importance and a proud time of economic development.  Buffalo is in the process of reinventing and repositioning itself in the community’s eyes as an incredible cultural powerhouse and a true economic developer.  This project is a symbol of the transformation.
Phase 1 includes illumination of the Connecting Terminal grain elevator, Skyway and Ohio Street Bridge, as well as the completion of concept and marketing studies for an approximately 45 minute multimedia show at the Connecting Terminal.  If final construction estimates are under budget and potential outside funding sources are realized, ECHDC will move forward with final design and construction for the illumination of the Michigan Street Bridge and illumination and animation of the General Mills industrial complex.
An $846,191 contract for consultant services with Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV) was also approved.  ECHDC contracted with BRV in June 2012 to develop a vision and activation plan for additional amenities, programs and/or events for the spaces within and adjacent to the canals and public environments.  The goal was to create a compelling destination that attracts a diverse audience and supports the public amenities currently under construction.  BRV completed all the tasks and presented a plan for the improvements and activation of the Aud Block for inaugural winter and summer seasons.  As a result of the work completed by BRV, ECHDC advertised for “Canalside Public Space Phase 2” to develop and implement the multifaceted activation plan and BRV was awarded the contract.

The board also authorized a 3-year $264,550 contract with Arts Services Initiative of Western New York (ASI) for programming and coordination services along the Buffalo River.  In 2012, ASI successfully administered the release of funds to 15 organizations that provided 177 free events to the public between May and October. 
The funding source for these contracts is proceeds payable to ECHDC pursuant to the New York Power Authority Relicensing Agreement.

 From The Erie County Harbor Development Corp, Here's a look at what they think the lighted grain elevators would look like:   SEE VIDEO of their March test project HERE

Illumination of the Connecting Terminal
This particular grain elevator presents the ideal urban situation to receive a significant visual intervention.  Its location and position provides a direct visual link to Canalside across the water.  It anchors one of the water gateways into the Buffalo River and can act as a luminous beacon fronting Lake Erie.  The first phase of the visual concept for the Connecting Terminal will be a kinetic lighting installation that will operate year round.  The kinetic lighting installation, similar to the Aurora Borealis Project in Quebec City, will be permanently installed on the grain elevator.  Multiple schemes based on a narrative theme would be programmed and displayed.  This evolving light show will transform the structure into a contemplative artistic lighting installation and keep visitors coming back to the site to see the different light sequences while enjoying their time at Canalside.
Connecting Terminal Show – Show Concept Study & Market Study
This project component consists of the design and elaboration of an original concept for an outdoor multimedia Show.  Supporting visual material, which would be used to communicate and promote the project to ECHDC partners (further described in the scope of services and deliverables section), would comprise the main deliverable for this project.  More specifically, the project objective is to define and determine the type, form, and the main themes of the storyline with the objective of creating a multimedia show of ± 45 minutes in length to be viewed by the general public that supports the tourism industry development strategy of the greater Buffalo area.
The underside of the Buffalo Skyway Bridge from Downtown to the Outer Harbor is best suited to accept a kinetic lighting installation which would complement the intervention at the Connecting Terminal and further support the public activities at Canalside.  Because of its physical presence hovering above Canalside and the Buffalo River, the Skyway deserves attention and can be transformed into a dynamic canopy of light.  This lighting installation will also contribute to the overall ambient lighting strategy for the area.  The lighting design will be designed in a way to communicate with the Illumination of the Connecting Terminal.
Ohio Street Bridge
This bridge is a central figure within the grain elevator district and the connection between Canalside and the Outer Harbor.  ECHDC is currently designing the infrastructure improvements along the Ohio Street Corridor and the illumination of this bridge is a significant corridor component.  Each of the structural towers at either end will be illuminated as vertical icon gateways, and by grazing the exterior structure of the bridge deck, the bridge will become a character in the overall narrative and journey through the Ohio Street Corridor and on to the Outer Harbor. The addition of light will also provide ambiance for the recreational boaters utilizing the Buffalo River.

General Mills
The active General Mills industrial complex not only borders the immediate Canalside area but adds to the public space experience by scenting the air as it produces its cereal for distribution.  The visual concept for General Mill will be focused on two distinct areas. The first would be to highlight the tower with the General Mills logo with an installation of lighting fixtures which would graze the vertical structure.  The second will be to animate with texture and static imagery on the warehouse wall on the river’s edge that forms the southern border of wall, which becomes apparent when walking along the boardwalk at Canalside.

Michigan Street Bridge
This bridge is a central figure within the grain elevator district and the connection between Canalside and the Buffalo River.  Each of the structural towers at either end will be illuminated as vertical icon gateways, and by grazing the exterior structure of the bridge deck, the bridge will become a character in the overall narrative and journey through the beginning of the Buffalo River Corridor and on to the Outer Harbor.  The addition of light will also provide ambiance for the recreational boaters utilizing the Buffalo River.

VIDEO courtesy the ECHDC