Philadelphia has picked up on Buffalo’s rebounding neighborhoods. Philly.com just published a piece about Larissa and Michael Milne’s unexpected visit. The two writers were apparently diverted to Buffalo on their way to visit Niagara Falls. The result is a whirlwind tour of the city, from the West Side to the waterfront.
Personally I was happy to see the article in Philly.com because back in the day, when we were hatching plans to roll out the inaugural Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, Joe DiPasquale and I paid a visit to the Manayunk Art Festival in Philadelphia, which we understood was the best around. After spending the weekend at the festival, we came back to Buffalo with a better understanding of how Buffalo’s festival should look and act (both good and bad).
Over fifteen years since that fateful visit to Philadelphia, things are rolling right along for Buffalo. Reading articles such as the one in Philly.com shows how far we have come as a city.
But there is still lots to be done. For example, there are destinations in Downtown Buffalo such as the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum that are brilliant in their own right, but are surrounded by a sea of parking lots and untapped buildings. If this city it to continue to captivate the imagination of travelers such as the two that recently paid a visit from Philadelphia, we must begin to look at the bigger picture. We must ask ourselves how we can still have historic building stock laying idle within a stone’s throw of well-known tourist destinations.
There are still opportunities to be had if we can free up the remaining vacant building stock, or pressure owners to come up with renovation plans. Larkinville and the Genesee Gateway are great examples of forlorn districts that have been reborn, with infill and rehabilitation. The public-private investments have attracted interest from The City, via backings in infrastructure to ensure that the investments are sound. Developers have been rolling out some inspiring projects as of late, but as the well runs dry (fewer available buildings), so will the amount of progress that we will see.
There is no better time than now, to start connecting the dots between development projects. Developer Rocco Termini recently told me that there are fewer and fewer buildings to purchase and rehab, partially because of building owners who refuse to s@#t or get off the pot (my words, not his). In the Google map below, there are a number of underutilized buildings and sprawling parking lots that make for a relatively uninspiring visit to the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum.
The three buildings pictured above can be found on Seneca Street, and appear to be in relatively great shape. So where is the action? Where is the plan? How do we get moving on the last remaining building stock that is untapped and ready for investment? If the six or seven buildings were developed, and The City came up with some key infrastructure investments, we would have a fairly well-rounded district on our hands instead of a couple of isolated investments.
I’m sure that the writers from Philly.com must have loved their visit to the Transportation Museum, but upon approach they were most likely wondering why the museum sits in the middle of a what could be considered emptiness.