May 03 2012

Uninspiring Urban Design: New Seneca Casino in Downtown Buffalo, New York

Rendering of a typical suburban development design for the new downtown Seneca Casino

Urban design is the bridge between urban planning and architecture design. It connects the feelings inspired by the architecture of a building and how the building interacts with the fabric of the neighborhood, and that neighborhood’s future development. A rendering for the new Seneca Casino in downtown Buffalo, New York, shown left, is an example of typical suburban sprawl and contemporary box-store  design, whereby the building is surrounded by a sea of parking. This project is going to be among the first of many developments in a poor, minority neighborhood, that is dominated by vacant lots, surface parking, and a crumbling infrastructure.  Instead of creating a comprehensive plan which is typical of urban settings, this project turned its back to the surrounding neighborhood. It offers no incentives for future projects to be designed for an attractive, walkable streetscape, that would interact with this project.

Effective urban design of this project would have allowed for the site of the building to be adaptable to changes that future develop brings.  Furthermore, the parking garage on the south side of the site, shown below, creates a barrier and does not encourage sustainable lifestyle practices such as walking by neighborhood residences to the south.  All parking garages should have some type of storefronts on the bottom level of the parking garage facing the street to accompany and encourage designs and visual stimulation on streetscapes.  Through urban design, this project could have been a catalyst for development that would have created an integrated urban neighborhood, reflective of the history, and character of the cobblestone district; but it has failed. There is nothing to praise about this design, as it relates to the urban fabric of the neighborhood, and no urban projects should ever follow this model.

Imagine if future development, on the empty lots and surface parking lots around this site, were to follow the same pattern. Would this neighborhood loose its urban essence and become another extension of suburbia?

Site plan of a typical suburban box-store design


Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Ryan Kucinski

Ryan Kucinski is a Master’s of Urban Planning student at the University of Southern California concentrating in Urban Design and Historic Preservation of the built environment. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he graduated, in 2011, top of his class in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at SUNY Buffalo with a B.A. in Environmental Design and a Minor in Architecture. In addition to his architecture and urban planning education, Ryan also has experience with real estate development and construction. His blogs focus on urban design, adaptive reuse, preservation, and place-making in the City of Buffalo; at a time when downtown Buffalo is experiencing a renaissance.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 at 10:18 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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