A neighborhood on the East Side of the city could set a precedent for additional urban street designs and surrounding residential scapes moving forward. A master plan for a 33-acre zone around Bailey Avenue and Genesee Street is being set into motion, which would ultimately help to transform the significant parcel into a livable, walkable urban destination and would feed its residents spiritually and physically.
The master plan was envisioned by University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning for the Bailey Green initiative. Since rolling out the initiative, the plan has already won an international design award.* This just goes to show, that if we can get the UB involved with more of our urban planning strategies, we should have better outcomes than what we have seen in the past. By combining the efforts of the university and The City, there is no telling how far we can push the design and functionality envelope when it comes to creating places that are forward thinking.
It’s absolutely fascinating how this plan came about, and a wonder why we have not seen these types of collaborative partnerships previously. It all started back in 2014, when Harmac Medical Products, a major employer in the neighorhood, approached UB to to develop a master plan. For years, Harmac had been involved with the community, and saw the relationship with UB as a way to get the ball rolling. UB architecture and urban planning professor Hiro Hata took that ball and ran with it, along with his students.
Since first being tasked with the project, Hata has developed strong relationships with neighborhood organizations and the City of Buffalo. According to UB News, “Habitat for Humanity is breaking ground on five new builds, Heart of the City Neighborhoods is planning the development of three four-unit apartment buildings in the neighborhood, Groundwork Market Gardens has created an urban garden to grow and provide fresh produce to a neighborhood where access to healthy food is scarce, and Urban Fruits and Veggies to build multiple hydroponic greenhouses, a fruit tree orchard, community garden and a street-level café and green market with upper-level apartments on East Ferry Street.”
Over the years, we’ve been following a number of the greening and farming efforts that have been bubbling up on the city’s East Side. Combined with an influx of refugees, new developments underway, and a number of grassroots organizations all contributing to the cause, there is finally a palpable momentum building up. To add to that momentum, the Bailey Green project sees the need for a central park that would inspire the neighborhood to gather for myriad purposes, while spending recreational time together. The plan recognizes the importance of affordable housing, retail, green infrastructure, and streetscape improvements.
Hiro Hata and his students are working in a neighborhood that has a vacancy rate of 60%. This statistic could be looked at in a number of ways. Obviously there is a need and an opportunity to turn the vacancy trend around. This will only happen with a consolidated effort and best practice urban planning measures. These measures include building to the sidewalk with parking lots in back, planting trees, providing cycling amenities, etc.
To add to the momentum, Harmac has graciously donated a building to the cause. According to UB News, the 19th century building was donated to UB architect-artist Dennis Maher who is partnering with the Albright-Knox to turn the structure into a training center with architectural resources for city residents. We should all give a hand to Harmac for instigating this incredible endeavor. Hopefully this will set a precedent for other urban companies to enlist the help of higher education institutions, while investing in the future of their own neighborhoods.
*Bailey Green II earned second place in the 2016 International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) design competition – under the direction of professor Hiro Hata and in partnership with Harmac Medical Products (UB News)