The population on the East Side has grown by the thousands in recent months. Birds, bees, butterflies, insects and a number of small mammals are now visiting and calling the Urban Habitat Project (UHP) home. The Urban Habitat Project occupies a three-acre site along Memorial Drive at the doorstep to the Buffalo Central Terminal. It is seen as a living inner-city demonstration classroom that features habitat restoration, native plants, and sustainable site development/construction while explaining the benefits of bio-diversity. It is also a learning lab, including educating the public and City officials that unmowed and natural does not mean 'hazard,' 'dangerous,' and 'eyesore.'
Construction on the first phase of the project was completed last November and is being managed by a various volunteers and organizations. The UHP has been designed to demonstrate biodiversity, native regional habitats, soil remediation, several plant communities, and ecosystems that benefit birds, bees, various beneficial insects and an array of resident mammals that currently exist near the site. The UHP is a Registered Monarch Waystation # 5188 and a designated Bat and Pollinator Conservation Site.
There are groves of pine trees, hawthorns, sumac, native shrubs, and meadows of grasses and wildflowers that have been specifically designed and selected to meet specific site criteria and provide a benefit to wildlife.
Soil remediation is another crucial component of the project. The plants being used this first season are for a number of reasons: root systems to aerate the soil; various species of Legumes to provide nutrition; season long flowers for all pollinators and birds; aesthetics; and, grasses for aeration, erosion control, materials for nesting birds, and a winter food source.
The urban habitat demonstrates Regenerative and Ecological Design - RED - principles; the next generation of sustainability and "green." It features water conservation/re-use/recycling and utilize soil remediation.
"Regenerative and Ecological Design is imperative; in that simply being 'green and sustainable' is not good enough for us as a society any longer," says Project lead Dave Majewski. "These were good practices that raised awareness the last few decades to new levels. They helped people see the obstacles and many approaches to new environmental practices. However, these only slow the environmental bleeding. Regenerative practices are designed to regenerate, recharge, and restore. This is the required future of all types of developments. We have to demand more of ourselves in order to meet these needs of the future. It boils down to the Economies of the Environment (E2): what is good for the environment is invariably good for the economy."
Majewski says the techniques used on the site could be replicated elsewhere in the city and region.
The UHP was modified during the development process to include a component that now redirects and impounds approximately 1.2 million gallons per year of untreated storm water runoff from an adjacent parcel and Curtiss Street.
"This component was coordinated through the Buffalo Sewer Authority, who provided enthusiastic support," says Majewski. "This modification alone, has allowed us to make the UHP a regenerative project wherein we are making the site and development better because of what we have done - rather than merely slowing the environmental bleeding."
"We were able to take a budgeted $92,000 project, and through construction efficiencies, partnerships and many selfless, generous in-kinds, we were able to complete this critical phase for $59,700," says Majewski.
Phase I of the UHP was completed through the help of the following:
• The John R. Oishei Foundation
• The Marks Family Foundation
• The Buffalo Green Fund
• Vogt Family Foundation
• The Baird Foundation
• Councilman David Franczyk
• Wendel-Duchscherer Architecture and Engineering
• Dore Landscape Associates
• City of Buffalo Department of Public Works
Majewski and his team are focusing on maintaining the UHP while raising funds for the second phase of the project. Key components include:
• Expanding the Bio Retention Cells to accommodate more storm water runoff from the community.
• Increased tree plantings in support of the pollinator conservation education program.
• Architectural Pavilion
• Signage dias on the existing overlook
• Expansion of the native meadow areas
• Small permeable parking area/access to the overlook and pavilion area
• Perimeter RR tie vertical border/fencing to define the site
• Planting of native fruiting/edible shrubs that were not in the Phase I budget
Construction of the UHP has been aided by a number of partnerships, including:
• SUNYUB Architecture - and the Small Built Works - is working with the UHP on the design and construction of the Architectural Pavilion soon to be built; and more developing components TBD.
• NY Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NYSAWG), Judy Einach, has requested that the UHP be a key component and living demo pertaining to the Pollinator Conservation Education Program. The CTRC/UHP has entered in to an agreement with NYSAWG to further promote this critical issue through the UHP Phase II and make it a public demonstration for others to follow regarding pollinator conservation education.
• The WNY Nursery and Landscape Association and their Certified Nursery Professional (CNP) program, Marla Tschieder coordinator, has requested to partner with the UHP as an environmental and sustainable training platform for their 2012 upcoming CNP training class. They wish to demonstrate to this new group of candidates the significance of urban bio-diversity, Low impact Developing, Native Plantings, Sustainable Sites Developing and Green Infrastructure. We will accommodate them by a tour, briefing and a proposed hands on event.
• The Youth Construction Initiative Program (YCIP) based out of East high School and directed by Lonell Williams - whom assisted in the original soil testing process and grid planning, has requested that their 2012 group of construction students - 24 total - be included in the planning, surveying and construction of the Phase II fencing, hardscapes overlook access and signage as well as the Architectural Pavilion construction.
• The Boy Scouts Troop 250 from Clarence, John Beckinghausen, provided key services and materials in Phase one with regard to the bluebird house, bat houses and the mason bee posts design, construction and installation.
• Buffalo State's Day of Caring students will be assisting in some various plantings, construction and maintenance this next phase.
• Daemen College, Professor Brenda Young, and her Biology/Natural Sciences class will be assisting in the continued planning of various ecological zones of the UHP to benefit diversity, birds, bees, and plant communities. The newly proposed B.A. course in Global and Local Sustainability at Daemen College will include the UHP as a visiting site for students as it relates to Sustainable Sites Developing, Storm Water Management, Habitat Conservation and LID.
• SUNYUB, Martha Bohn, will also be touring the UHP to introduce their Architecture students to the importance of true Low Impact Developing and Sustainable Sites. They wish to expand on their curriculum to include the details of how entire sites - rather than buildings - need to be included in design and planning.
• Eric County Social Services SNAP program coordinator Jeffrey Wrightman will be providing personnel to assist in come construction components as well as to learn some basic urban ecology and sustainability.
• SUNYUB Architecture Fellow, Curt Gambetta, has requested that his current class tour the UHP to receive a direct connection with urban natural resources re-use, composting and waste infrastructure.
John Murphy, Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services and also of HomeFront, has been very instrumental in his grant writing assistance/consulting and has brought expertise in promoting such urban type of projects for more regional support. The UHP, through John Muprhy and NHS, has applied for a State Green Infrastructure Grant Program (GIGP).
The UHP is also in need of continued financial support to make this vision a reality for the East Side, the City of Buffalo, the region and our environment.
According to Majewski, Fillmore District Councilmember David Franczyk is expected to soon provide financial support for the second phase of the project. "David Franczyk has been a huge supporter of this project since it's inception," says Majewski.
"Above all, the UHP is a living demonstration as to how developments can be low-impact and provide numerous environmental benefits at no increased costs to developers and municipalities," says Majewski. "It also demonstrates what we can do with large tracts of unused available land."
Get Connected: Dave Majewski, 716.432.2960