The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library has had the good fortune of being selected as an awardee of Southwest Airlines’ “Heart of the Community” national grant. Along with its lead partner, Project for Public Spaces, the airline has sought out to identify ways to strengthen communities by providing financial and technical assistance to projects that “connect people in its public spaces, creating more resilient cities.”
The designated project, called “Buffalo’s Reading Park,” will result in the creation of a reading park on the grounds of the Central Library. The joint effort is being made possible thanks to partnership struck up between the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Place, Just Buffalo Literary Center, WNY Book Arts Center, Visit Buffalo Niagara, Plurality Press, Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning, in cooperation with Erie County.
Washington Street has been designated “Literary Corridor” due to the key locations of the library, Just Buffalo Literary Center and WNY Book Arts Center. The “Buffalo’s Reading Park” will add to the literary momentum that has already been ignited. Moving forward, the process of designing the park will also include public input. The plan is to take an underutilized space and create a zone that features “literacy-supportive programs and attractive amenities”.
“At Southwest Airlines, we build community wherever we are, whether at our gates, in our planes, or out in the communities we serve,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Vice President and Chief Communications Officer. “That is the inspiration behind Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program. By investing in authentic relationships and creating spaces and opportunities that bring people together, we can build connections and strengthen communities. We’re excited to see the positive impact each of these spaces will have as a result of these grants.”
“Our goal in working with the 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant recipients is to help them create great public spaces where everyone in the community feels welcome,” said Fred Kent, Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces. “When people in communities come together in this effort, results are tangible and immediate, and the placemaking process itself helps to strengthen the sense of belonging, sociability, and inclusion that great places naturally generate.”
“We are elated and grateful to have had our Buffalo & Erie County Public Library project selected for this national award,” noted Library System Director Mary Jean Jakubowski. “We, along with our partners, can’t wait to get the public planning process under way. By next spring, you can expect the downtown Central Library to offer a vibrant outdoor space with free programs and activities that appeal to everyone.”