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Encouraging Social and Economic Growth in Kenmore’s Delaware Avenue Business District

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 following is a summary of a project completed by Michael Herberger, Ryan McCarthy, Jacob McNamara with simulations by Elnaz Haj Abotalebi. It is one of five reports completed by the students last semester.
THE VILLAGE OF KENMORE
The Village of Kenmore has a population of approximately 15,400 residents, but encompasses an area of only 1.4 square miles, placing it among America’s top 100 most dense urban areas, as well as making it one of the densest neighborhoods in Western New York.
Kenmore is a prototypical first-ring suburb. Located immediately outside the border of Buffalo, most of Kenmore’s growth occurred during the first big race to the suburbs, in this case between World War I and World War II.  As a result, many homes and buildings in Kenmore are reflective of that time period. Delaware avenue is comprised mostly of older buildings, many constructed on small lots between the 1920s through the 1940s. As well as influencing the age and style of many of the village’s structures, Kenmore’s development timeline had a major impact on shaping Kenmore’s identity as a part of the greater Western New York region. As sprawl continued and populations moved further from city centers, newer suburbs were built further and further out.  As a result, Kenmore is older and denser than newer suburbs like Tonawanda and Amherst, which developed mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. One effect of this age is that Kenmore is home to a large number of mixed use structures and narrow lots which are uncommon in these newer second-ring suburbs. This fosters a viable environment to encourage dense, vibrant, and self sustaining city life in the village of Kenmore which would be far more difficult to recreate in Western New York’s newer communities. 
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Kenmore works well in many ways. In 2009, the village received national recognition when the American Planning Association named Kenmore “One of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods” as part of its Great Places in America Program (following on the heels of a 2007 nomination for Buffalo’s Elmwood Village).  At first glance, it may appear that a redevelopment plan for Kenmore is a solution looking for a problem. However, Kenmore faces the same uphill battle for economic progress as many neighborhoods through Western New York and across the country. Specifically, Kenmore is dealing with a dwindling population, high commercial vacancy rates, and unsustainable, driver-centric infrastructure resulting from the ongoing march of sprawl. While today Kenmore remains a generally strong neighborhood, these concerning trends must be addressed before the neighborhood’s fabric begins to unravel. 

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TARGET AREA: THE DELAWARE AVENUE BUSINESS DISTRICT
Our target area is limited specifically to the village’s Delaware Avenue Business District. Kenmore has three main commercial strips- Delaware Avenue, Elmwood Avenue, and Kenmore Avenue- and all three are specially zoned as “business districts”.  The focus of our study will be the portion of the Delaware Avenue Business District which covers a one mile stretch beginning at the Buffalo border at Kenmore Avenue and extending northward to Kenton Road. 
The Delaware strip is comprised predominantly of mixed use structures, with small businesses such as hair salons, florists, and candy shops typically found on the first floor, and offices and apartments above. Much of the original streetscape is intact, resulting in a building stock representing a wide variety of ages, conditions, construction materials, and architectural styles. The village has maintained a historic, small town aesthetic, despite minimal zoning and land use regulation in the current version of the Village Code, which is quite dated. Lots are narrow, most structures are built right up to the sidewalk, and only a few buildings are taller than three-tories. Shorter structures allow the streetscape to remain relatively open with a lot of open sky, so small scale, mixed use development of four-tories or less in height would best complement the existing the urban fabric.
It is also worth noting that Delaware Avenue itself is not actually under the control or maintenance of the Village of Kenmore; rather, it is a New York State Highway, and so is subject to New York State Department of Transportation’s rules and regulations regarding lane sizes, turn lanes, intersections, parking, signage, curb cuts, and the like.  This means that proposals relating to the roadway itself would face an additional layer of red tape in order to proceed, and overly radical concepts could face substantial opposition. Currently, Delaware Avenue in Kenmore is divided into only two lanes, one in either direction, with metered but unmarked parallel parking on either side of the street. Traffic management efforts are minimal, which has lead to traffic congestion and discouraged pedestrians from walking the neighborhood, as well as fostering the village’s reputation as a speed trap.
ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES
The success of businesses in the Delaware Avenue Business District varies widely. The Delaware strip is home to several businesses which have operated successfully in Kenmore for many years, including Watson’s candy store, operating since 1946.  Hofert Jewelers, operating since 1929, and Mike’s Subs, operating since 1956, as well as other successful staples of varying ages such as Michael’s Florist, the Plaka diner, Malone’s bar and grill, and Condrell’s Candies. However, despite the success of these long running and viable businesses, as we spoke to numerous area business owners regarding the state of the Delaware strip’s business community, including at Marco’s Italian Deli, Elliot Travel, Hoelscher’s Meats, Watson’s Chocolates, and Hofert’s Jewelers, two major concerns arose.
One problem is high commercial vacancy rates and failure rates of new businesses that close their doors before they can manage to get established. As one example, the current home of Zaiqa Pakistani restaurant has changed ownership at least 3 times in recent years, previously housing a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company, and Palms Mediterranean restaurant. As another example, Dominic Hofert, current owner of Hofert’s Jewelers, said that the storefront next to his, which last housed a Mediterranean restaurant, has been vacant for more than 8 years. This is particularly troublesome consid
ering this vacant storefront is located between Lincoln Boulevard and Mang Avenue- less than one block from the heart of the village. Hofert thought some of the vacancy problems in the area may be related to the poor condition of some storefronts and lack of investment and upkeep by the current property owner, an elderly gentleman named Don Katz who has owned much of the retail space along the strip for many years. These business owners recognized that the vacancies are a problem, and felt that renovating some buildings along the strip which had become run down in recent years could help to attract both new tenants and more customers. 
Luckily, this situation may already be changing for the better. Sinatra & Company Realty, a new real estate corporation with an office on Delaware Avenue, has been purchasing many of the retail storefronts on Delaware with plans to renovate the buildings. Michael Lamonte, Director of Operations for Sinatra & Company said the company is in the process of purchasing the entire block between Lincoln Boulevard and Mang Avenue, a key block on the Delaware strip which has fallen into disrepair in recent years, and has been plagued by vacancies (currently, this block has three vacant storefronts, including 2870 Delaware, 2872 Delaware, and 2878 Delaware). 
The photo below illustrates the typical condition of buildings on this block:
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The following rendering, which is the property of Sinatra & Company, shows the company’s plans to renovate the facades in an effort to improve marketability of the storefronts:
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Sinatra & Company recognizes the possibilities along the Delaware strip, but agrees with the business owners’ sentiments that vacancies are a problem, and that the poor condition of many buildings along the strip plays a big part. In addition to redeveloping this block, Sinatra is also planning on acquiring and renovating several other buildings along the Delaware strip, including the current locations of Hoelscher’s Meats, Watson’s and Michaels Florist. If such redevelopment plans come to fruition, they could create serious positive momentum throughout Kenmore and make it more likely for our proposed improvements to contribute to the successful revitalization of the Delaware strip.
Another problem identified by Kenmore’s business community is that several basic amenities are conspicuously lacking within the village’s borders, forcing residents to leave the neighborhood and drive to other parts of Western New York to meet their needs. One major void is the lack of a suitable grocery store within the village. 
Another thing missing is a café, coffee shop or similar meeting place for residents to gather and socialize. Despite relatively wide sidewalks and short, mixed use lots that would favor a walkable, pedestrian friendly environment, there is very little sidewalk life along the Delaware strip. Successful walkable areas in Buffalo often feature businesses that encourage a vibrant sidewalk environment.
The chart below illustrates the imbalance of amenities along the Delaware strip, showing the total number of businesses in several categories and highlighting both the large number of vacancies, and the need for a grocery store and coffee shop:
kenmore5.pngDEMOGRAPHICS
The demographic picture of Kenmore shows a community that is predominantly white and middle-class, but a trend toward increasing diversity appears to be developing.  The 2010 Census shows that 92.8 percent of Kenmore is white, marking a small but noteworthy change from the 96.9 percent reflected in the 2000 Census.  The non-white population in the area has risen from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 7.2 percent in 2010.  This change may account for what appears to be a growth of ethnic businesses on the Delaware Strip – Sinbad’s Middle Eastern Market at 2896 Delaware and Zaiqa Halal Pakistani restaurant at 3054 Delaware are two examples.  
One of Kenmore’s notable strengths is its steadfast middle-class population.  Kenmore citizens have a median household income of $47,344 and a median home value of $96,000.  Kenmore has a particularly high home ownership rate – 70.7 percent of Kenmore’s residents are home owners, as opposed to the New York State average of 55.7 percent.
Kenmore also has 10,747.7 persons per square mile, reflecting a dense population center (Buffalo, for example, has only 6,470.6 persons per square mile).  This density indicates a large population within a very small distance of the Delaware strip, and our intent will be to encourage these residents to use amenities close to home.  
The decreasing number of children in Kenmore may be a dark cloud looming on the community’s horizon.  The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District is suffering from dropping enrollments; the District’s enrollment dropped 7.5 percent from 2007 to 2010.  The District has noted that this problem is linked to Erie County’s dropping birth rates.  
The drop in the population of children is only part of the picture – Kenmore is losing people of all ages.  Kenmore’s population dropped from 17,180 in 1990 to 15,423 in 2010, a loss of 1,757 people, which represents more than 10 percent of Kenmore’s total population. With the decreasing youth population, along with the loss of overall population, we have identified one problem Kenmore needs to address: Kenmore must do everything in its power to retain families currently residing in the village, as well as to attract new families.  Without maintaining and attracting families within its borders, Kenmore will continue to face dwindling property taxes and a lack of population to support its schools and businesses.  
Our project proposal, with its pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use agenda, attempts to attract families to Kenmore by fostering a healthy and vibrant neighborhood with a community feel.  The proposal attempts to create an environment where most necessary social and business resources exist within a small-town setting, and within a clos
e enough distance of home that any member of a family can easily and safely walk to reach those resources. 
KENMORE’S COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Kenmore’s planning board has been working to address several of the concerns mentioned here. In 2002, Kenmore developed a large-scale plan to revitalize the village, including our target area.  The board also realizes how important it is to foster a healthy business environment on Delaware Avenue. The Delaware Avenue Business District constitutes a substantial portion of the tax base of the village, so its success or failure will have a major impact on Kenmore’s revenue and overall economic well-being.
 
One area the planning board focused on in their comprehensive plan was beautifying the Business District. This is a logical course of action, as “[t]he poor condition of this well-traveled road and lack of curb appeal were cited by area businesses as to why businesses were failing in Kenmore.  The goal of the Delaware Avenue Streetscape Program [was] to assist in the recruitment and retention of businesses to Kenmore and to provide safe sidewalks for pedestrian traffic.”  Thanks in large part to $600,000 in funding secured by New York Representative Louise Slaughter in the 2004 Transportation Appropriations bill, streetscape improvements were completed over the course of several years, including new sidewalks and minor upgrades including new lamp posts, benches and trash receptacles.
However, beyond basic streetscape improvements, most of the plan’s other recommendations have never materialized. For example, the plan discusses the lack of zoning rules for green space, parking, building appearance, signage and lighting, and the like, and recommends implementing an updated and more comprehensive code, which seems like a good suggestion but does not address specific initiatives that could be taken to encourage revitalization. In nearly a decade since the comprehensive plan was completed, little has changed in this regard. 
One proposed zoning change in the comprehensive plan that warrants discussion is the proposal to limit new construction to 5,000 square feet on the first floor, and 2 stories.  We feel that 3 or even 4 stories would fit fine- there are already several larger buildings in the area (such as the 6 story Wynwood of Kenmore senior living apartments on the corner of Delaware Avenue and Nash Road, and the 6 story KenDev Studios apartment building a few blocks north on Delaware Avenue between Landers Road and Chapel Road) and a far larger number of three story structures. 
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
After exploring the neighborhood and speaking to the community, our group has identified several projects we feel would help foster a vibrant, thriving neighborhood in the Delaware Avenue Business District. We would like to take steps to make the area a destination with a unique identity. We would also focus on getting people out on the street and creating a more social environment by encouraging walking, and biking. We plan to achieve this through smart improvements to infrastructure, as well as filling holes in the business community using strategic infill. We feel these improvements support the idea of a self sufficient neighborhood by identifying what is needed for the residents, and providing everything both residents and visitors need to live, work, and play, all within walking distance of the Delaware Avenue strip.

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PROPOSAL: CREATING A GATEWAY TO KENMORE
We recommend constructing physical gateways to the Delaware strip, establishing a dramatic entrance to the village and designating the Delaware Avenue business district as a unique “location” that people will go out of their way to visit. This has been done in neighborhoods across the country, including here in Western New York in the city of Niagara Falls. 
Two simple yet attractive signs displaying the name “Kenmore Village” across Delaware Avenue near the northern and southern ends of the Delaware strip would designate the area as a unique destination.
PROPOSAL: PEDESTRIAN SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS
During the several times we walked around Kenmore Village, we always felt that crossing Delaware was hazardous.  The crosswalks were poorly designed, the road was too wide, and vehicles were often speeding beyond the mandated 30 miles per hour speed limit, often while trying to merge from four lanes to two while trying to avoid parked cars.  Walking from one side of the neighborhood to the other felt dangerous, even to three able bodied young adults, bringing the need for improved traffic management to our attention.  
The current pedestrian and traffic measures along Delaware Avenue need improvement, namely because the current configuration heavily prioritizes through-traffic over pedestrian safety and access.  Delaware Avenue is a road that cuts through the entire Buffalo region, and for the most part it is a four lane road (with two lanes going each way).  In Kenmore Village, Delaware Avenue abruptly narrows down to two lanes with little warning.  While this transition from four to two lanes is necessary, it is poorly structured.  Below is a photo of the current two-lane situation on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore:  
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We see the several problems with the above design: 
•Drivers are unsure where they can drive and where they can park.  Although there are not two lanes in each direction, drivers will often use this roadway as if there are two lanes because of its width.  This creates dangerous situations for drivers and pedestrians.
•Pedestrians are not given a clear crossing point.  In addition, vehicles are allowed to drive near the sidewalks, creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians.
•This road does not invite parking.  The design suggests that the entire road is used for driving, and people will be apprehensive to park in such a setting, especially if they have their families with them. It also makes exiting parked vehicles particularly difficult. 
Here is an illustration of what this roadway would look like with our proposed changes: 
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The picture above shows the following changes:
•We have bumped out sidewalks (i.e. extended sidewalks into the street) to create the shortest possible crossing distance for pedestrians.  Bump outs have been shown to decrease drivers’ speed by as much as 7 percent, and they ensure that drivers will only use one lane in each direction, not two, as they travel through the village. 
•We have clearly demarcated the pedestrian crossing, painting fresh zebra lines and providing visual cues (i.e. the red bricks and the bumped out sidewalk with green space) so drivers know they cannot drive in the parking lanes.
•We have demarcated the park spaces, letting drivers know they can safely park along Delaware Avenue because the far right lane is clearly used for parking, not driving.  
The concept behind this proposed change, as well as many of our other proposed changes, is turning Kenmore Village into a “shared space,” where pedestrians and vehicles have equal priority.
PROPOSAL: ADDING BUMP-OUTS
There are two types of bump-outs implemented in our plan: (1) concrete bump-outs and (2) zebra line bump outs.  Concrete bump outs are formidable – drivers will damage their cars if they drive over them.  Zebra line bump outs, on the other hand, are purely visual – drivers will see them and know they cannot drive in the far right lane because it is used by pedestrians.  
We also propose installing zebra painted bump outs.  In conjunction with the concrete bump-outs, these zebra bump outs will assure almost all of the pedestrian crossings are well defined in Kenmore Village.  In reality, the concrete bump-outs may be difficult to implement because the State owns Delaware Ave (Route 384) and Kenmore Village may not want the bump-outs because of the difficulty they pose for snow plows.  If implementing these concrete bump-outs were not possible, we suggest zebra striping all the proposed bump-outs.  Although that remedy does not force traffic into its appropriate lanes, it still provides a reasonable and practical alternative that should dissuade drivers from driving in the far right lanes.
PROPOSAL: ADDING A TURN LANE
Although it is not shown in the above illustration, our plan also proposes a turning lane that runs through the middle of Delaware Avenue as it goes through Kenmore Village.  This turning lane will prevent traffic from getting held up behind cars waiting to turn, and will prevent drivers from dangerously trying to maneuver around these halted vehicles.  
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PROPOSAL: ADDING PEDESTRIAN EXCLUSIVE AND PEDESTRIAN LEADING ZONES
The heart of Kenmore Village is the intersection of Delaware Avenue, Delaware Road, and Lincoln Boulevard (above).  This intersection is next to the Village Green in front of Kenmore’s Municipal Building, and we believe it is vital to address pedestrian safety and access at this intersection. We propose an “exclusive pedestrian phase” at this intersection.  An exclusive pedestrian phase is where all traffic stops and pedestrians have access on all approaches.  At right is an example of an exclusive pedestrian zone from Oakland, California’s Chinatown region.

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As you will note, diagonal pedestrian crossing is allowed in this phase.  We believe that this phase emphasizes to pedestrians that the heart of Kenmore Village is a safe place to take their families, and that they can feel comfortable walking from the east to west side of the Delaware Avenue with their families.  
In addition to enhancing pedestrian use and access at this intersection, we also propose enhancing pedestrian safety at other intersections, particularly where Delaware intersects with LaSalle and Victoria.  At these two intersections, we propose pedestrian crosswalks with “leading pedestrian phases.”  Leading pedestrian phases provide a WALK indication prior to the green light for vehicles.  This phase allows pedestrians to populate an intersection before vehicles are released and turning.  We believe that a leading pedestrian phase would improve pedestrian access and safety at LaSalle and Victoria – two intersections which are vital locations to Kenmore Village.
PROPOSAL: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EXISTING REAR PARKING
The location of parking lots in relation to a neighborhood can have a substantial impact on the urban landscape. In her 1997 study, The Bay Area’s Love-Hate Relationship with the Motorcar, Ellen Marie Miramontes estimates that between 40 percent of the land in a typical American downtown is consumed by parking spaces. Many modern studies extol the virtues of “rear yard” parking, rather than front lots located between stores and the street, in order to prevent vibrant streetscapes from turning into a sea of parking spaces. Luckily, Kenmore has plenty of existing rear parking. 

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Few other areas in Western New York have as much public parking as Kenmore, and most of the village’s parking is located in the rear of businesses, maintaining a continuous streetscape. In addition, many businesses have rear entrances with direct access to these lots, including Michael’s Florist, Plaka, Mike’s Subs, Jinlan, and others. However, this valuable resource goes largely unused. 
We would propose several changes to let the public know about Kenmore’s ample supply of rear parking. First, a simple blue parking sign should be placed at each corner with access to one of the four main shared parking lots (marked in red right). By placing a simple parking sign at the corners of Victoria Boulevard, Lincoln Boulevard, Mang Avenue, and Lasalle Avenue on the west side of Delaware, and on Warren Avenue and Euclid Avenue on the east, driver awareness about and use of these lots should increase. 

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Although we would like to encourage walking and biking in our community as much as possible, automobiles are a fixture throughout Western New York. Better utilizing existing rear parking and rear business entrances would help to improve access to businesses for drivers, a boon to these local businesses. The more consumers there are out shopping in the Delaware strip, whether walking, biking or driving, the better.
PROPOSAL: ENCOURAGING BIKING AND WALKING
As part of our effort to encourage more people to bike and walk along Delaware Avenue, one plan would be to increase access by installing a system of public bike racks.  We would work with Green Options Buffalo, a local organization that uses federal funding to provide Buffalo Blue Bike racks where needed (to date, they have installed over 450 such racks around Buffalo, and have secured funding for 150 more). It is estimated that pedestrians’ tolerance for walking is at least 600 feet, depending on the environment.  In order to ensure comfortable bike access throughout the target area, we would install public bike racks every 600 feet, or approximately every two blocks for the length of the strip, on alternating sides of the street. 
Following this plan, the entire business district could be serviced by six bike racks. By making walking and biking easier, it will encourage local residents to frequent businesses in their neighborhoods. Also, when walking or biking, it encourages browsing, and makes it easier to “pop in” to check out area businesses. Encouraging and supporting biking also fits well with Buffalo’s efforts in recent years to encourage such activities (biking in buffalo increased 158% over the past decade).
Another proposal is to use the well-known police presence in Kenmore to further encourage biking and walking. Currently, Kenmore has two patrol cars driving throughout the village at any time. We would propose that the officers on patrol would take turns parking their car, preferably along the Delaware strip to maintain a visual presence in the neighborhood, and then  “walk the beat”, working on community policing and forming personal relationships with residents and business owners. In addition to reinforcing the police presence and fostering neighborhood relations, this would also encourage walking by example. Currently, the response time to an emergency call in Kenmore is under two minutes, and we feel these policy changes could be made without any significant increase in response times.
PROPOSAL: ADDING A COFFEE SHOP TO 2890 DELAWARE
For a community atmosphere to develop along the Delaware strip, the village needs more community gathering spaces.  In particular, we believe the village needs a coffee shop.  
Considering that Kenmore has a dense and compact residential population, we believe Kenmore can sustain a community coffee shop.  We propose installing such a shop at 2890 Delaware, a two-story brick building that previously housed a Dollar General.  This building is a visual focal point of the neighborhood – it is across the street from the village green, and it is at the main intersection in of Delaware Avenue, Delaware Road, and Lincoln Boulevard.  Ideally, the current building would be renovated and reused in order to maintain the historic nature of the streetscape. However, a community business owner warned us that the foundational integrity of this building is questionable.  If this is the case, the current building could be removed and a new building added.  Here is a drawing of a proposed coffee shop at 2890 Delaware Avenue:  
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New businesses, particularly coffee shops, are seen as indications that communities are doing well or are on the mend.  This coffee shop should attempt to appeal to young and old alike – it should invite people of all ages, particularly families, and it should avoid pigeon holing or becoming an exclusive hang-out spot for college students and hipsters.  Introducing such a coffee shop will also encourage residents to walk in their community, being a short commute from both homes and businesses.  
PROPOSAL: ADDING A GROCERY STORE TO THE EMPTY LOT AT DELAWARE/TREMAINE
In addition to a coffee shop, Kenmore also needs a grocery store.  Small, high quality grocery stores like Guercio’s on Grant Street and Dash’s on Hertel immensely enhance the surrounding neighborhoods.  Currently, while there are TOPS and Wegmans down the road from Kenmore, the village itself has no grocery store – especially one which residents can reach by foot.  We propose the installation of an indoor/outdoor grocery store at the empty lot at Delaware/Tremaine.  Below is a computer rendering of our proposal:
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A grocery store such as this fulfills our goal of encouraging residents to view their neighborhood as self-sufficient, a place where necessities such as groceries are within walking distance. In addition, by incorporating outdoor stands, selling fruits and vegetables, flowers, and other seasonable goods when whether permits further encourages sidewalk socialization, which will help the Delaware strip to develop into a more active and inviting streetscape.
PROPOSAL: CONVERTING ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL INTO MIXED OFFICE SPACE
St. Paul’s School opened in 1899, two years after the adjacent church, and originally housed only a two classroom Catholic school.  Since then it grew into a large, 10,000 square foot, Kindergarten through eighth grade school. This makes the former school Kenmore’s largest vacant building. In addition to the classroom space, the school also houses an undersized gym, a library, a cafeteria with a full kitchen, and several small offices. 
In 1966 there were seven Catholic schools in the Ken-Ton school district, with a total enrollment of greater than 6,000 students.  Currently, only four of those schools remain, with a total number of students at approximately 1,800.  St. Paul’s closed its doors as a K-8 school in June of 2010.  The main reason for the school’s closure was the low number of enrolled students for the upcoming school year.  The school needed a minimum number of 105 students, and only had 70 enrolled as of March 2010.  
Currently, the school functions mainly as office space for secretarial and accounting positions affiliated with the church.  Some of the old classrooms are now used for religious education classes for ages six through sixteen, which meet two times per week.  The gym is also open three ti
mes weekly for old-timers basketball games.  Once per week, a Boy Scout’s meeting that takes place in one of the classrooms. The library has donated nearly all of its books; however there is still a book club that meets there once monthly.   All of these events take place in the late afternoon, with the earliest event at 6:00 PM.  The only exception is a weekly basketball practice that occurs at 10:00 AM on Saturdays.  This leaves approximately 20 rooms currently vacant with little or no use.  There are approximately 40 total parking spots in two parking lots that were shared by the school and the church, as well as additional spots on bordering streets.  
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The current Pastor of St. Paul’s Church, Father Jay McGinnis, is pleased with the current use of the school, as he sees no reason for the school to expand or change what it is doing in any way. 
However, we feel that the school is not being put to its fullest and best use.  There is a large supply of unused space that could be put to use by businesses of many shapes or sizes, which could help to stimulate Kenmore’s business community.  We think that the best use for the mostly-vacant building would be to convert most or all of the school into flexible, mixed-use office space.  
Another example of a use with great potential could be as a business incubator or creative think tank, similar to the Trico building near the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  In addition, UB could utilize St. Paul’s as a satellite campus for night classes, continuing education or other alternative learning programs. The school’s location is ideal for such an arrangement, almost equidistant between downtown Buffalo, UB’s North campus in Amherst, and UB’s South campus on Main Street.
This would not necessarily impact many of the current uses of the church and school, since the offices would ideally operate Monday to Friday during normal business hours, between roughly 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, during which times the church and school are mostly empty.  Mixed office space would not just be convenient for the school, but will also bring more jobs to Kenmore.  These workers will also stimulate the local economy by going to the many nearby shops and restaurants on their way to and from work, and on lunch breaks. The manager of Marco’s Italian Deli specifically commented that workers on lunch breaks made up a substantial amount of his business.  
CONCLUSION
Kenmore has the foundations of a strong urban neighborhood. Its narrow lots filled with mixed use buildings of varied styles and ages, and first floor businesses with residents above, makes for a safe and appealing environment for people interested in a more urban lifestyle. However, decreasing population and storefront vacancies are roadblocks to a vibrant and lively environment. 
We believe that using our proposals for giving Kenmore a unique identity, improvements to traffic and pedestrian infrastructure, and taking advantage of Kenmore’s expansive rear parking would help to create an environment where the right businesses could thrive. In addition, careful use of available lots in the village to incorporate a coffee shop, grocery store, and business space would allow Kenmore to achieve its true potential by stimulating the neighborhood economy, fostering a more active and pedestrian-friendly environment. Ideally, these changes would satisfy the needs of both residents and visitors, making Kenmore a more attractive place to live, work, and play.

Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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