As Sault Ste. Marie looks to draw more tourists through developing its downtown, I can’t help but think of Buffalo, N.Y., and its redevelopment success story. In terms of similarities, I was dazzled by Buffalo’s waterfront, reclamation of old facilities, architectural gems, and food tourism.
Truly, if you haven’t been to Buffalo lately, you haven’t been to Buffalo.
The waterfront dazzles on a sunny day. Its boardwalk is lined with food vendors and other ways for tourists to leave their money behind. (We do have Beavertails.)
It also has feature museums such as the Children’s Explore & More Museum,and The Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. The Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum is a gem at the crossroads between canals and bridges. (That said, the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centreis definitely a gem worth polishing.)
The naval museum features decommissioned U.S. Naval vessels, including a cruiser, destroyer, and a submarine. (We have the Norgoma (sort of) and it’s for sale.)
Buffalo Riverworks has put together an incredible indoor and outdoor adventure and entertainment centre, built in and around reclaimed grain silos with an artsy industrial edge. There’s a zipline, rock climbing wall, high ropes course, not to mention water sport rentals. There’s also skating, hockey, curling, an escape room, a roller derby rink, a concert venue, several dining options and bars. (In terms of reclaiming industrial buildings, wonders have been worked here with the Mill Square under the leadership of Tony Porco, with more development in the works.)
The red sandstone of the former St. Marys site brings to mind Buffalo’s Hotel Henry. Formerly an insane asylum, the institution was converted into a truly stunning hotel and conference property. The 16-foot ceilings, white walls and large windows, make rooms feel luxurious, airy and spacious. The 100 Acres restaurant is also a must experience, with local produce, tender beef and a fierce bourbon milkshake.
Silo City is another new, raw destination that is evolving into a hip enclave for art installations, spoken word events, concerts and theatre. The Duende Bar and Grill onsite has a great vibe, using skillfully reclaimed materials, serving up local draft beers and ciders. I also like that the city acknowledges and seems to honour the history of the land as part of the historic Buffalo Creek Reservation.
Buffalo’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s gem, the Martin House, is truly stunning, and offers all kinds of tailored tours including photography, landscape and multi-site tours. (We have a Wright house on St Joe’s don’t we?)
The Buffalo Wing Trail is also worthy of a graze. I happily ate at Gariel’s Gate, but next time I’m also going to the Anchor Bar, the birthplace of Buffalo wings. (I would think that the Sault could easily have a pizza trail. Perhaps a passport system could be created, and if someone ate at all of dirty dozen stops, they’d win a Sault pizza maestro T-shirt.)
Granted, it didn’t come cheap. Canalside is the result of over $300 million in new development, but hosts more than 1,000 annual events. Silo City is expected to cost another $30 million, and the Martin House renovations were $50 million and took 25 years.
Funding, vision and creativity, were required to make Buffalo an amazing destination. Perhaps our visionaries should visit Buffalo, and/or invite theirs here to help make the Sault equally memorable.