COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Placemaking Energizes the Campaign for Buffalo’s Waterfront Development

Nov 22, 2010
Apr 9, 2019

Buffalo's Canal Side Community Alliance (CSCA), a coalition of community groups campaigning for the future of their city's waterfront, called on Fred Kent and PPS Board Member Tony Goldman of The Goldman Properties Company to bring Placemaking and PPS' international experience in creating great waterfront destinations to the latest in a series of public forums called "Aspirations and Inspirations: Imagining the Buffalo Waterfront."

“I thought this was a meeting, and it turns out it’s a movement!" said Mark Goldman, Tony's brother and Buffalo historian, author, entrepreneur, and someone PPS would lovingly call a "zealous nut." The turnout at this forum in Buffalo on November 6, 2010 was tremendous (more than 600 people attended!) and is part of an inspiring trend PPS has been noticing in our work across the country. More and more communities are organizing themselves to campaign for the future of the places that matter most to them.

Through a place-based approach and with the help of its large group of dedicated citizens, Buffalo's waterfront could one day transform into one of the best in North America.

Buffalo is a city ripe for Placemaking: with these forums, the community is not seeking silver-bullet design solutions but a bottom-up, Place-based approach. In short, Buffalo is calling for an Architecture of Place: as the CSCA explains, these forums are meant " help us focus less on what we want to build there and more on how we want to feel there. The goal is to bring a new and different sensibility to land use decisions."

From PPS' point of view, Buffalo's waterfront could be one of the greatest in North America because of the way the canal and the land connects with the entire length of the city. We know from our work around the world that extraordinary destinations are nurtured by good connectivity with other great places. The physical advantages of this unique place, when combined with tremendous community involvement, could mean a perfect storm for Placemaking.

PPS thinks Granville Island in Vancouver, Canada, is one of the world's greatest places- and a wonderful example of a public, multi-use waterfront destination that doesn't rely on large infrastructure investment. It's a great model for Buffalo.

‍‍Like Buffalo, Granville Island's now thriving waterfront grew out of industrial infrastructure.  PPS thinks it's become one of the best public multi-use destinations in the world.

As Fred explained in his talk in Buffalo: "a lot of cities think that if they make this big iconic architecture or this big mixed-use development, that will be the key. What we’re saying, what we know, is that if you look at the [area around the Gugenheim Museum in] Bilbao in Spain, they only get about 800,000 visitors a year, and they’re all tourists. You take Granville Island, you get 10 million visitors, and a substantial number of them are locals who come on a repeating basis. There are 3,000 people who work on Granville Island and 270 businesses. When you go to Bilbao, there’s a museum and the people who work in the museum. And that’s it.” PPS knows that sustainable jobs and local economies are rooted in great places. Development along Buffalo's waterfront could give a boost to the whole city.

To learn about Fred's talk and the ongoing campaign to make Buffalo's waterfront great, check out this local coverage:

Aspirations and Inspirations: The Latest in a Series of Public Forums on Waterfront Development Aims to Infuse the Conversation with Creativity

Buffalo Rising: Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper


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