In a Buffalo, New York urban district that was, just a few short years ago, an uninviting industrial area, the Larkin Development Group has revitalized and repurposed old buildings and converted the area between them into a forward-thinking public space.
With a footprint the size of a city block, “Larkin Square” boasts whimsical sculpture, functional green space, inviting places to relax, and a stage for public performances, in addition to great establishments for food and drink. During the summer, the stage provides a casual venue to enjoy a free show on Wednesday nights in a series dubbed “Live at Larkin.” Distributed sound reinforcement and lighting give Larkin Square a modern vibe, and Ashly Audio processing, amplification, and control give it the reliability to work day-in and day-out, as well as the flexibility to grow with the aspirations of its oversight committee.
“Thousands of people live and work in the newly rehabbed buildings that surround the square,” said Tony Spencer, with Powerhouse Pro Systems (Buffalo). “It’s like a little city within the larger city of Buffalo. Larkin Square provides the public focal point for the new development.” First Niagara Bank, the City of Buffalo, and the Larkin Development Group funded the $2 million project. Under Spencer’s direction, Powerhouse Pro Systems designed the Ashly-centered sound reinforcement system. Paul Foxe of Wittburn Enterprises, the general electrical contractor at Larkin Square, programmed the system and oversaw its installation.
To provide coverage of the entire square without blowing some visitors away with too much volume, Spencer distributed twenty-five Technomad 300-Watt full-range, weatherproof loudspeakers throughout the space, mounting them on light poles or other structures to provide the necessary height. Three Ashly ne2400.70 amplifiers and three ne1600.70 amplifiers power the loudspeakers, and one Ashly ne24.24M modular DSP handles input & loudspeaker processing as well as matrix routing. For concerts, the system ties into the stage PA, but it is mostly used to provide background music, with special content for lunchtime and the cocktail hour. Elation LED architectural lighting illuminates Larkin Square at night, either with a “theme park” feel or a more straightforward feel.
“We originally put the Ashly ne24.24M in with optional card slots for an 8-in by 8-out structure,” said Spencer. “However, the oversight committee wants control over more zones, as well as more inputs. So we’re expanding the ne24.24M to a 12-in by 12-out. The flexibility of the unit is great. All we have to do is drop in some new cards and we’re set. No need to buy a new piece! Moreover, the ne24.24M can grow with the needs of the space months and years down the road.”
Inputs to the system include the stage mixer, several iPod/iPad docks, A/V access points for presentations, cable TV, Pandora, and a handful of wireless microphones. For the convenience of the staff and because they require nothing more than a networked Ethernet connection to function, Spencer specified the placement of eight Ashly neWR-5 remote controls throughout Larkin Square. They provide input selection and zone volume control. In addition, an Ashly FR-16 programmable fader bank provides centralized control of all zone volumes. “Before the client expanded the system, we were planning to use the FR-16 as an eight-input/eight-output volume control,” said Spencer. “Since they’ve increased that count, we’re going to repurpose the FR-16 for output volume control. It’s nice that the FR-16 is flexible enough to be programmed to control anything.”
He continued, “We went with Ashly because the products integrate well, are solid, and are backed by a five-year warranty, but perhaps more so, we went with Ashly because of the people who stand behind those products. I knew that the programming would be quite involved, and Paul [Foxe] always received immediate help from the folks in Ashly’s technical support department whenever he needed it.”