During a recent trip to Providence, RI., I came away with some thoughts about how Buffalo could benefit from some of the street and building scapes that I happened across. Right away I was impressed by some of the brick laid street intersections that help to calm traffic – they also add to the historic nature of the neighborhoods. The differentiation between the asphalt and the brick signaled to passersby that people were just as important as cars. This type of feature should be installed at Five Points intersection, at Delaware and W. Delavan, at Main Street and E. Delavan, and various other places where we need to make traffic calming statements, while reclaiming the historic fabric of our neighborhoods.
Next up, I came across a lively piazza setting, and immediately thought about where something like this could be constructed in Buffalo. As I looked at the bookend builds, on either side of the piazza, I realized that one appeared to be more historic in nature, and the other one would be easier to recreate. Actually, it was the diversity of buildings that added so much flair to the setting – they all contribute to something that acts like a public square.
If there was one existing historic building in the city/downtown that was next to a sprawling parking lot (there are a few that I can think of), then it would be easy enough to mimic the appearance of this wonderful piazza setting. There’s really nothing like this in Buffalo – it’s a central gathering point, where people come to listen to live music, eat and drink, people watch, and catch some sun. In the middle of the piazza is a big fountain, which anchors the scene, with strands of electric lights overhead. All of the buildings had patios that extended out into the piazza. The historic cobblestones underfoot, and street lamp standards overhead, were also nice touches.
Providence has an amazing festival series called WaterFire Providence. The canals are lit with fire, as gondolas travel up and down with passengers. The festival plays off the urban/historic fabric of the city, much to the delight of festival-goers. Buffalo will have to come up with its own ingenious hooks when it comes to attractions at the waterfront. The canals are inherent to Providence, the way that Canalside will one day be inherent to Buffalo.
The one thing that did make me think for a hot second, is that it’s important to ensure that there are public right of ways along the Buffalo River. As development continues on both sides, people need to be able to interact with the water, even if that means walking alongside it.
The final takeaway from Providence was the of the markers on the historic houses that lined the street. Not only did they have the dates when the houses were built, they also denoted the original families that lived there. To me, it made viewing the houses a lot more interesting, as I found that there was something very romantic/intimate when reading the names of the different families that first invested in their city.
Last but not least, Providence is lucky to have its higher ed institutions located primely in the city, which creates a dynamic buzz. University at Buffalo (North Campus) should continue to move more of its schools into the city. It would be great to reverse that terrible decision to build it on a swamp on the outskirts of town.