We all know the value of being able to readily walk to and fro at one’s convenience. It’s an issue that we discuss all of the time. In Buffalo, there are a number of walkable neighborhoods, including Hertel, Elmwood, and Allentown. Allentown is very walkable because of the tight-knit density and the variety of amenities in close proximity to one another. The only problem with Allentown that I can think of would be the lack of snow clearing from sidewalks in the wintertime (this pertains to all of Buffalo). Elmwood’s only issue is that it is broken up into distinct sections of commercial and residential. And Hertel’s biggest problem is that it is a fast moving street, with very little traffic calming measures. There is no commercial district that is perfect when it comes to walkability, but there are definitely some contenders.
CityCommentary.com recently posted an awesome article on the nature of walkable neighborhoods. The article starts by talking about the change in American car culture, by saying “Walkable neighborhoods appreciated faster than car-dependent ones in 44 of 51 large metro areas in the past seven years.”
What it all boils down to is that walkable neighborhoods are surpassing car-dependent neighborhoods, and it looks as if that trend is going to continue.
“Of the 51 metro areas for which we have data, 44 experienced an increase in average values in walkable areas relative to car-dependent ones over the period 2012 to 2019.” – CityCommentary.com
This is exciting news, but it’s also no brainer news. We all know that walkable neighborhoods increase home values. It’s one of the reasons that downtown Buffalo is still nowhere near where it needs to be when looking at walkability factors. We desperately need more urban density, and fewer surface parking lots. We need more residential units, particularly condos – if people are going to be selling their houses and looking to downsize, most aren’t going to want to lease. Once we have more people living in downtown Buffalo, more amenities will set up shop. Everyone talks about the chicken and the egg. It doesn’t apply here. You can’t have the amenities arrive first – it doesn’t work that way.
It’s great that we have walkable neighborhoods. At the same time, it’s unfortunate that Downtown is not nearly as walkable as it should be. There is a lack of connectivity, including lack of dedicated bike lanes. We need more residential units, and more traffic calming initiatives. We need to connect Larkinville to Downtown. We need to connect the Pierce-Arrow project to its surroundings – there’re way too many parking lots. Parking is still king, unfortunately. We need traffic calming too – it’s time to fix streets like North and South Division, Oak and Elm, and Michigan.
There are plenty of opportunities at build a more walkable downtown – we just need some visionaries to lead the way. We need developers to team up with parking lot owners to solve this problem. Analyze the lots and get creative. There are always solutions… let’s not see business as usual in Downtown Buffalo in 2020.