The problem is not the ugliness, per se-- it is really more that the street life disappears around parking structures. There is no pedestrian activity, and a big block of space becomes the urban equivalent of a desert. Worse, actually-- the lack of activity can make these areas more dangerous. We have plenty of parking-- and plenty of arid desert in downtown Buffalo.
But again, my point is that this doesn't have to be the way it is around parking garages. It just doesn't. I'm not suggesting building a prettier parking garage that is still just a parking garage. Here's what I'm thinking of:
That's Eaton Centre in Toronto, facing south on Yonge Street. (Photo filched from this Toronto blog.)
See all that street facade, there? You can make out the actual parking structure lurking behind that, and in the middle of the photo you can also see the entrance to the garage where the cars go in. But flanking that garage entrance, and in front of the parking garage itself, is a regular old streetscape, with stores and, therefore, pedestrian activity. If the new waterfront/Central Wharf project is going to have its own parking -- and it will have to, nobody's going to walk all the way from the parking at HSBC Arena or farther into downtown to this thing, no matter how much parking exists in downtown already -- that's the way to build it.
A building that is primarily parking garage doesn't have to just be parking garage, and it certainly doesn't have to be a big gray box. (And note that there's nothing mysterious about this: it's just simple urban design principle at work. Build to the street, and hide your parking.)