School of Architecture and Planning

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The Idea of Heritage Development

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Economics of Heritage Development

Urban Design and Heritage Development

Exhibit of Historic Views

Heritage Development
- a Case Study

Group Discussion Sessions

A Summary of the Conversation

Content Analysis
(coming soon)


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One of the things that we learned from those hearings is that on active canals, many times more land-based visitors visit the canals and locks and trails than water-based visitors, than boaters. Many times the number in boats are in cars and tour buses and bicycles and pedestrians and so on. The potential is huge if we’re smart about pursuing it, preserving it, and maximizing it.

To help us understand some of the history and significance and potential regarding the Canal, we have two distinguished panelists for this first session, Karen Engelke, Executive Director for the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission and Tom Gallaher, Jr., a private consultant in heritage development with Community Corridors. I’ll introduce Ms. Engelke first and will more fully introduce Mr. Gallaher later.

Karen Engelke, as Executive Director for the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission has led the largest regional New York State heritage area for over five years. The eight heritage corridor counties stretch 130 miles along the Mohawk River section of the New York State Canal Way. Under the guidance of an 18-member appointed commission, Ms. Engelke was the chief strategist, public presence and fiscal manager for the heritage corridor.

With over ten years of hands-on experience in community-based heritage development, she has undertaken capital projects, has created multiple interpretive products, including extensive historical exhibits, and has worked with many local communities as they begin to include their heritage and cultural resources in a regional economic revival. She has presented sessions on heritage development, interpretation, cultural tourism, and is active on many regional and state and national boards in these fields. Join me in welcoming Karen Engelke.

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Heritage development in Central New York

Karen Engelke: Executive Director, Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission

Thanks John. It’s a real pleasure to be here this morning. I was overwhelmed last night at the beginning “conversation” dinner. Wow! Kevin, you did a great job, as have all the volunteers, too.

Peavey Elevator - Patricia Layman BazelonMy experience in heritage development has really been hands-on. It’s not theoretical at all and has been usually low- or no-budget. So, the fact that you have a budget here in Buffalo to do some good work is a really healthy sign.

How many of you know about the New York State Heritage Area System? You know, you have an Urban Cultural Park here in Buffalo — Buffalo Place. It was one of the original 14 Urban Cultural Parks. When the eight counties of the Mohawk Valley came along we were much too big to fit the traditional designation of an urban core. We were not urban at all, and so the whole system’s name was changed to the New York State Heritage Area System.

There’s a new heritage area underway right now here in Western New York. It encompasses the five counties in the Western end of New York State. The Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor is just now beginning. I would posit that Commercial Slip here in Buffalo has got to be one of the star attractions, in whatever shape it takes, for this new heritage area.

I read in the paper this morning that Governor Pataki is going to introduce legislation this next session that will include Albany, which is at my end of the Canal, and Buffalo, in the Erie Canal System. So that’s good news because that makes you eligible for different types of funding for canal projects that materialize in the Buffalo region.

You’ll also hear this afternoon from Linda Neal, of the National Park Service, about a national designation for a National Erie Canal Way that is in the works. I understand the negotiations between New York State and the National Park Service are moving along quite nicely. So, that’s great news for all of us. (applause).

Many of the speakers today will talk to you about brand name recognition and what it means to be called the Erie Canal. I have a very short little vignette that I want to share with you. Last August I was in Zimbabwe, it used to be Rhodesia, sub-equatorial Africa. Quite a few hours north of the capital city of Harare, up in a hill town that had hosted my son Matt on one of his studies from the University of Chicago, we had driven off the macadam, we had driven off the dirt road, we’d hiked up about three kilometers into the hills and we came to a little village where Matt had stayed for three weeks on a prior visit and we met the family that hosted him.

Two of the children were about 14 years old. Now, you’ve all read about Zimbabwe’s troubles in the last few years. I’ve got to tell you, they have a 95 percent literacy rate. So, these are not uneducated people. We were talking about where I live and how different my house was from this mud hut that we were in. They’d heard of New York. And they said, “Well, what else about it, where you live?” I said, “Well, I live on the Erie Canal.”

And little Ivan, who was 12, started singing “I’ve Got a Mule and Her Name is Sal.” (applause) “Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.”

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