UB Law School's Regional Economic Development class is bringing fresh economic development ideas to neighborhoods that need a boost. The course lets students attempt to identify a real need in the community, apply the theory learned in the classroom and then design a plan that would address this need.
The innovative cross-disciplinary course--"Regional Economic Development"-- is intended to give law students practical experience in the subject, with a distinctive emphasis: bringing visualization to the legal debate.
The Regional Economic Development course recently added one more component. The law students now work with students from UB's School of Architecture and Planning to give the projects what its instructor called a three-dimensional element, a quality that gives those looking at the proposals the opportunity to visualize what the actual project would look like far beyond the normal, two-dimensional map-making.
Fourteen students took the course last semester taught by professor John H. Schlegel and produced five projects. Essential to their proposals was making them as visually interesting as possible. And that's where students of Mitchell Bring--an architect and specialist in computer visualization and model-building, and adjunct professor in UB's School of Architecture and Planning--got involved. Bring's students worked with the law students to add "3-D visualization" to the projects.
The result was five student projects--all grounded in urban planning principles studied in class--designed to address and fundamentally change a shortcoming in five Buffalo neighborhoods:
• "Heights Plaza" proposal by Daniel Fabian and Joel Terragnoli, with Gun Hyoung Kim. Their plan to revitalize the University Heights neighborhood and the Lasalle Avenue neighborhood includes a "virtual walk" around the neighborhood that provides a "bird's-eye view" of the changes in streets and amenities the students propose.
• "Railroad Renaissance: An Urbane North Buffalo Community" by Michael Cimasi, Shervin Rismani and Jeffrey Tyrpak, with Teresa Bosch de Celis and Meng Yu. This project proposes a new "pedestrian-friendly, yet auto-accessible" environment for the vacant Erie-Lackawanna Railroad corridor in North Buffalo between Delaware and Colvin avenues.
• "Encouraging Social and Economic Growth in Kenmore's Delaware Avenue Business District" by Michael Herberger, Ryan McCarthy and Jacob McNamara, with Elnaz Haj Abotalebi. The students proposed changes include a gateway and pedestrian-exclusive zones in the heart of the Village of Kenmore.
• "The Rock: A look at Buffalo's Black Rock Neighborhood through the Eyes of Jane Jacobs" by Christina Akers, David Burress and Megan VanWie, with Troy Joseph. The students recommend short-term improvements: street lights, public benches and beautification projects, along with longer-term changes, such as a pedestrian bridge.
• West Utica Street Triangle by Gretchen Sullivan and Christopher Szczygiel, with Zhaoyu Luo. The proposal suggests a "micro-loan" fund for residents limited to $1,000 each, a community land trust and specific changes, such as an ethnic community kitchen, a community gym and an ice skating rink.
"The university values cross-disciplinary teaching and research," Schlegel says. "Our approach may be a little odd, but it works. These law students will come out of this better lawyers, especially those who will be doing development work."
Summaries of each team's project will be presented on Buffalo Rising in coming weeks.