A hulking grain elevator on the outer harbor, across from Canalside, will be the canvas for a kaleidoscope of illuminated colors and patterns starting in mid-2015.
The permanent, year-round static and kinetic light show – originally planned to be unveiled this year – is expected to be a one-of-a-kind nighttime attraction on the waterfront.
“We have this huge billboard – this massive structure – that will be like none other,” said Thomas Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. “People are going to go, ‘Wow, I just didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect something so cool.’ It is going to enhance the nightlife in Buffalo, and on the waterfront.”
The soundless light show will last 40 minutes to an hour, and repeat from dusk to 11 p.m., Dee said.
On Monday, the waterfront agency approved two contracts, totaling $2.9 million, for construction costs, including electrical installation, at the Connecting Terminal on the west side of the Buffalo Ship Canal. The dormant, 1915 concrete elevator, designed by A.E. Baxter, is owned by New York Power Authority, which recently repaired the roof and removed asbestos.
Plans to light the Ohio and Michigan streets bridges and a portion of the Skyway – expected at one point to occur at the same time – are now “on the back burner,” but still will happen, Dee said.
There also are plans for a more advanced light and projection show, dwarfing what is already in the works. The new show is based on the public art spectacle in Quebec City, by Ambiances Design Productions, which is doing the Buffalo light show.
The scale of that project, with an estimated price tag of $20 million, would tell the story of Buffalo and employ 3-D video projection, fire, smoke, sound, pyrotechnics and other special effects.
“I think what’s planned now will be great for what it is, and be one of those transformational projects because it’s so big. But in the long run, I would absolutely love to see ‘The Story of Buffalo’ broadcast on this grain elevator,” Dee said.
“I would like to see this ferment for a couple of years, and then somebody – maybe it’s a sponsor – comes along and says we can actually improve this and take it to the next level.”
The Connecting Terminal’s illumination is the latest step in revitalizing these colossal structures along the Buffalo River.
A cluster of grain elevators at Silo City, at Ganson and Child streets, has over the past couple of years become one of Buffalo’s most happening areas.
The silos and the site’s faded grandeur are used for art installations, architectural gatherings, music events and the backdrop for theatrical performances, drawing thousands in the process.