The Elmwood Village is Buffalo's most successful mixed-use and commercial retail district. The neighborhood is an ongoing source of growth within a city struggling to turn the economic corner, home to more than 20,000 residents and 100 businesses, most of them locally owned. Despite its success, Elmwood is also
experiencing significant growing pains. Chief among these is parking or, more precisely, lack of parking. Any visitor
or nearby resident to the District becomes painfully aware that more parking is necessary, particularly for those businesses seeking to locate and/ or expand in the Elmwood Village.
There are nearly 1,200 on and
off-street parking spaces in the Elmwood Village. Of these, nearly 700 are contained in a
single, centrally located private facility: the Women & Children's
Hospital Parking Ramp. Subtracting
these 700 spaces from the total (since they are in continuous use by the
hospital) leaves just over 500 currently available public spaces. The Elmwood Village has reported a shortfall
of approximately 500 spaces to satisfy future needs.
Questions for the future include
how to expand parking options without imposing additional burdens on the
District including noise and congestion. How can we avoid new surface lots, avoid using
corners for parking, act economically and efficiently and embrace the City's
proposed GREEN CODE walkability principles?
In short, there exists a delicate
balance between convenient shopping and an appealing living environment in the
Elmwood Village that is threatened by the neighborhood's growing popularity and
A Changing Development Landscape
The City is on the verge of
adopting GreenCode, Buffalo's first completely new zoning ordinance in 60
years. The new code will feature some of
the most progressive development standards in the United States, in particular,
being the first City to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new
development. This simple regulation will
legalize our ability to build, and rebuild, the dense, mixed-use neighborhoods
that make cities interesting, charming and that they so desperately need to
thrive. However, it also means an
already constrained parking landscape will become even tighter.
For GreenCode to be a
success, it is imperative that the City ensure adequate support for its
regulations and its neighborhoods. The
removal of minimum parking standards should be complemented by a comprehensive
approach to alleviating parking deficits in Buffalo's denser neighborhoods.
This approach needs to incorporate a multitude of solutions, including more sensible on-street parking regulations as well as off-street facilities designed to provide high capacities in strategic locations. Approaching "the parking problem" in a comprehensive, quality design-driven manner will facilitate the sustainable urban growth that is envisioned in our progressive new GreenCode.
A Better Long Term Solution
The Elmwood Village could
support a strategically located, multi-level parking facility coupled with a
real neighborhood-wide shuttle service. Imagine
replicating the planning wisdom-not the exact design of course-- of the Women's
and Children's Hospital 700 car parking facility. The structure is tucked discretely behind
Elmwood at about mid-point of its length.
This facility is already surrounded by other commercial uses, does not "trespass"
on residential properties, and offers 3 different locations for access. Imagine further creating 3-4 similar
parking facilities, each with 200-250 car capacity, perhaps combined with retail
and residential uses too. Specific
locations might include:
· In Allentown off Wadsworth across from Grace Manor to help Allen Street restaurants
· At mid-point of Elmwood Village District --- right next to existing Women's Children's Hospital facility off of W. Utica
· At or near northern Village Gateway either just north or due south of Forest Avenue
· A facility near Bidwell Parkway to serve and help grow the Bidwell Farmers Market and the summer concert series
Each of the above-mentioned
locations potentially has the available real estate but requires a little "out
of the box" thinking. Each will also
require both public and private cooperation and investment.