Re-Establish the Historic Elk Street City Market Near Canal Side
by John R. Finster, Orchard Park
I feel that a piece of history that is a key to developing a historic themed public market at Canal Side has been overlooked or underutilized.
Buffalo history is the emphasis of the Canal Side development. Let’s consider the need for a historic public market with an adjacent outdoors farmer market at or near Canal Side to complement this historic theme.
From 1845-1922, the Elk Street City Market operated less than a half mile to the east of Main Street, on a two- to three-acre site fronting on South Park Avenue (then call Elk Street) between East and West Market Streets. The site extended north crossing Perry Street to Scott Street and then hooked west between Perry and Scott to Michigan Ave. A part of the site is now the parking lot of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
In 1900, the Elk Street City Market was the largest of five public markets. All of Buffalo had good access to public markets. The Elk Market burned in 1922 and was abandoned. In general, the level of service from the other four markets continued until the 1950s. Now only the Broadway Public Market and the Clinton Street Farmer’s Market survive; neither is thriving and both provide only marginal utility and limited access for other parts of the city and surrounding county.
The Canal Side development presents a unique opportunity for re-establishing a central public market that is adjacent to downtown and accessible by public transit (Metro and bus), major radial arterials and the expressways. Construction of a replica of the 1845 Elk Street City Market or its near twin Washington-Chippewa City Market would fit perfectly with the historic character of Erie Canal theme.
Recognizing the limit area of Canal Side, there is a need to expand east along the Buffalo River corridor. Therefore, consider a site for the replica of the historic public market on the three to four acres of the two vacant blocks bounded by South Park Avenue (the old Elk Street), Mississippi, Perry, and Columbia Streets. Up the middle of these two blocks is Baltimore Street, a restored brick (or cobblestone) street. Site the farmers market on one block. Later build the replica public market building on the second. The Buffalo Urban Renewal Authority owns both blocks. The site is only a quarter mile walk from Main Street along Perry Street—four blocks from Main Street and six to the metro rail station. The two blocks are currently low-use paved parking lots that could almost instantly be converted to an outdoors farmers market. To the north across Perry Street is another parking lot on land owned by the ECIDA for convenient close by parking.
If the low-investment farmers market is successful, a more costly second phase of a permanent replica public market can be built on the adjacent block.
With this new attraction, the whole city would be equitable and centrally served by an access public and farmers market. It would provide a needed shopping opportunity to support to the new residential development in Downtown with excellent access provided by the Metro fare-free zone. All the ethnicities of the city could be celebrated. This historic public market would serve all of Erie County and as a bonus appeal to tourists. This development would further extend the theme of Canal Side east along the Buffalo River Corridor.
Obviously, the establishment of even a seasonal farmers market would require the cooperation of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Authority, which should enthusiastically embrace the low cost initial phase of this concept. With a small investment outdoor portion of the historic Elk Street Public Market would again serve Buffalo. As part of the concept, South Park Avenue should be renamed Old Elk Street.
The attachments contain area maps of the new site and the original market site, a rendering and pictures of the historic Elk Street City Market, and supplemental information documenting land ownership.
> John R. Finster, Orchard Park
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