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Silo City Rocks

Photos by Sophia Marie Bianculli

This summer, see Buffalo from the top of a grain elevator

It’s all happening. That’s what I said to Christian Edie when I called her from my apartment in China one morning to talk about her project, Silo City Rocks. We spent the first few minutes gushing over how excited we were that the ideas we had talked about only a few short months ago were actually coming to fruition. I had made it to China and she had begun building the first of many climbing tracks on the outside of Buffalo’s famously abandoned grain elevators.

“It feels good to see your dreams come true, doesn’t it?” Edit says. It really does, and it feels good to see my friends’ dreams come true, too. Especially when they mean I get to return to a more vibrant and exciting city than the one I left behind.

Edit and her business and climbing partner Kevin Cullen are the brain trust behind the exciting new development you’ve been hearing about. The two hope to transform the abandoned Silo City and Concrete Central into an entire recreational center. They also plan to piggy-back on a project headed by University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning called Hive City. The project intends to develop a natural hive found in one of the silos into a unique and beautiful home for bees as well as a learning center for visitors. Edit and Cullen aim to build an urban agriculture site beside Hive City to highlight of the sites potential for all sorts of dynamic expansion.

Edit and Cullen believe that this is only the beginning. They hope that both local and national businesses follow their lead and invest in the silos’ vast potential energy. In a few years they think the site will boast not only an outdoor recreation center but a whole plethora of entertainment and tourism opportunities. They want their customers to have restaurants, bars, and retail centers to visit after a rewarding day of surfing, climbing, and stretching.

Talking to Edit and Cullen, it wasn’t hard to believe they had made so much progress in the few months since I had seen them last. Like any Buffalo native, I have heard hundreds of ideas on how we should develop our waterfront, and most haven’t made an impression, but something about their ambition struck me as unique. Cullen and Edit possess the valuable ability to simply go out and do the things most of us only talk about doing. Part of this is a learned behavior earned from their climbing experience. Edit has been climbing for five years and taught professionally at an army base in El Paso, Texas, and Cullen has been climbing for seven years. Edit says that climbing has taught her “to stay calm and take on one thing at a time.”

They approach challenges like this project the same way they would take on a rock formation, with small, patient steps toward their goal. Meeting these two, you are immediately struck by their energy and positivity. You want to be on their level; to drink whatever proverbial Kool-Aid they’re drinking.

It is the couple’s infectious demand to fill their lives with spectacular and memorable moments that drives this project and guides it’s future. It’s because of these qualities that Silo City Rocks has made such fast progress and generated so much interest.

The pair spend up to 40 hours a week planning and building both outdoor and indoor climbing routes. They’ve already completed two outdoor tracks, and have enjoyed learning about the unique climbing opportunities the silos offer. Cullen explains that climbing the silos will feel like climbing real mountains. “Rests and corners,” Cullen says, referring the silos’ naturally varied surfaces, “call them rests and corners.” And he reminds me to call them “climbers and surfers.”

See, he’s making a few things clear here. First of all, he and Edit are experts; they know what they’re doing and what to look for in a climbing site. They know what’s fun about climbing and how to highlight the silos’ features to maximize their entertainment value. Second of all, they’re doing more than one thing with Silo City. In addition to developing a kick-ass climbing center, the two will offer bike rentals, yoga lessons, paddle boating, kayaking, surfing, music concerts, art installations, and movie nights. “This is going to be an entire outdoor adventure destination. It’s not just for climbers, there’s something for everyone,” says Cullen.

He and Edit also reminded me that Buffalo is one of the few places where one can surf, climb, and ski or snowboard in one day. “I guess you’d have to wake up pretty early to fit all three into the same day, but Buffalo can definitely promise you one hell of a weekend if you know where to look,” says Edit, and I can see her eyes light up at the challenge.

This is how the couple spend their days, and their lifestyle inspires. I have met few others who can match their positive energy. They radiate an air of peace, contentment, and confidence. Investing in their ideas seems like such a great move for Buffalo because its this type of positivity that we want to instill in our residents and to impress upon visitors.

Their timing is also impeccable. To quote Zoolander, the silo’s are “so hot right now.” Last summer’s City of Night Festival showcased the site’s potential as a music and arts venue, as did an event called American Grain, in which Edit preformed. She was hoisted some 200 feet above her audience for almost seven hours wearing a 40-pound pyrotechnic suit for an art installation called “Hanging Around.” “It was pretty awesome,” she says modestly.

Using these silos is important because it shows our city’s adaptability and uses our sometimes debilitating sense of nostalgia to generate interest and support for a brighter future. “Buffalo is a place where people come from; it’s a place with a past,” says Cullen. “The silos are a beautiful part of our city and a beautiful representation of its triumphs and struggles. People want to see them rebuilt and renewed.”

Speaking with Edit and Cullen about their project from so far away was bittersweet. Their enthusiasm makes me want to be right there with them, building new tracks and brainstorming new ideas. At the same time, hearing about all this growth from so far away only reminds me how quickly things can improve and how easy it is, with the right state of mind, to invest new life into something old and abandoned.

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