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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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Sixth: Are the organizations and elected leaders very, very clever and ready for change, especially when it comes to partnerships and financing? There are some outrageously clever ideas out there on this.

Seventh: Are people patient? Heritage development is like everything else. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well and it takes time. Heritage development can be painfully slow. The final result will come along later, but you gotta maintain patience.

Eighth: Does this place practice quality? Does it understand the “wow!” factor? When people come here are they going to say “wow!” or are they just going to say “gee”? And there are a lot of places out there where “gee” is good enough.

Ninth: Is it doable? Where is the money? Is the idea reasonable, suitable, feasible? Who’s got the money? And, please remember that money follows ideas, not the other way around.

Tenth: This is sort of my favorite. Do people know how to party? Do they really know how to celebrate? Do they know how to have a good time together and invite everybody?

As I said earlier, it’s not up to me to presume to know the answers here, because the consultant doesn’t do heritage development. The community does. You do. But I do have some 18-hour-old impressions of Buffalo and the Niagara region and that’s all they are. At the outset I want to say that I think you’ve already embarked on heritage development. This conversation. Last night. You may not know it, but you’re already on the way.

So, here’s what I see in Buffalo:

Last days of the Erie Canal, 1926 - New York State MuseumFirst: Do you have a unique and interesting and compelling story to tell? Well, yes. For starters there’s the real Opening of the West, the first Crossroads of America, Lake Erie, the harbor, the Erie Canal itself, Digging the Ditch, the engineering, the labor, the immigrant families, the Canal District, “The Most Dangerous Spot on Earth”, “The Infected District.” For heaven’s sake, think about those stories! “The Most Dangerous Spot on Earth!” “The Infected District!” Think about those interpretations. Wow! That’s not a “gee;” that’s a “wow”!

And another point, and with all due respect, and it’s been brought up before. When I grew up in Texas and Arkansas and Missouri, we didn’t talk about the Illinois & Michigan Canal. We didn’t talk about the Delaware & Lehigh Canal. We talked about the Erie Canal. So, yeah. Yeah. No question about it. You’ve got an interesting story to tell.

Second: Interesting geography? Now this is where the outsider has to look at these things and say, what’s Lake Erie? What’s the confluence of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie and the Canal? What’s the Niagara Escarpment? What’s Niagara Falls? Yeah. You got some interesting geography.

Third: Does this place think “regionally”? I understand that you’re getting a handle on that. Continue working on it. But we’ll say “yes” for now.

Fourth: Grassroots ideas? I don’t know about that yet, but that’s why we’re here today. But look how far you’ve already come with these homegrown ideas. As was mentioned last night from Dewitt Clinton to Nitwit Gaughan. (laughter) So, absolutely. You’ve got homegrown ideas, but you gotta do more with them.

Fifth: Partnerships. Is there enough civility, good humor and good will to form partnerships to meet potential partners halfway? I’ve got two answers here. Yes. All you gotta do is look at the list of sponsors and co-sponsors of this conversation. That’s a remarkable, remarkable list. So you know how to make partnerships. My other answer is: maybe. There are a lot of people who should be here but aren’t. You’re going to have to go get them. And you’re going to have to go a little bit more than halfway with some of them. Because as Karen said, there’s a lot of good will there. You’re going to have to demonstrate even more good will.

Sixth: Who can be the cleverest and the most change-oriented? In the weeks leading up to this conversation, I’ve talked to some pretty interesting folks in Buffalo. At the outset it appears to me that many are ready to be very clever and to bring about some changes. Then last night, at dinner, I looked around the table where I was sitting and something struck me. The average age at that table was probably 35 at best and I thought, what’s wrong with this picture? Now this is the end result of a lot of that work that Wendy and the National Trust have been doing. Even this morning, this is a terribly young audience to be addressing these kinds of questions. And maybe what we’re seeing here in Buffalo is the passing of the grail from one generation to the next. That hasn’t struck me in a lot of places before. But I think it’s happening here and that’s so very, very important.

Can we make peace? I’m going to suggest that here, today, perhaps at 4:30 or 5:30 this afternoon, we simply declare the Peace of Buffalo and get on with what is best for the region. (applause). You guys have been on an economic and social roller coaster since 1920 at least. Isn’t it time to get off?

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