School of Architecture and Planning

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A Summary of the Conversation

Buffalo's Opportunity

the idea of heritage development

the values of heritage development

real places and telling stories

heritage development and the tourism industry

tourism is a byproduct of good places

making it work economically

the process is important

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Idea of Heritage Development

The Economics of Heritage Development

Urban Design and Heritage Development

Exhibit of Historic Views

Heritage Development
- a Case Study

Group Discussion Sessions

Content Analysis
(coming soon)

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Making It Work Economically

Heritage development in general, and dealing with the Canal site more specifically, involves complex challenges in marketing, finance, the economics of project programming, federal and state involvement, and organization and management. What we do with the Commercial Slip and its surrounds will be conditioned not only by the imperatives of authenticity and story-telling but of market, finance, and revenue generation.

The broadest area of agreement was that some kind of public sector recognition, whether federal heritage corridor status, National Park status, or the current New York State designation, will provide access to necessary financial and technical assistance and give legitimacy to fund raising efforts in the private sector. Although public resources are seen to be shrinking, as Adelmann noted, they remain vital to the process.

Still, there are lots of sources for development financing. As Gallaher noted, ticking off a list of canal-related investments in recent years, “I assume the money can be found.” Much of the money, however, will need to come from the private sector. That means getting the right people to ask the right people to give money. Private sector funds, Ana Koval suggested, can provide the seed money necessary to develop a concept and prove support on the way to getting public money. Beyond that, Adelmann said, it is necessary to demonstrate the heritage development concept piece by piece, moving strategically from one project to the next. In this regard, organization and management are also central to successful heritage development.

Market demand and economic feasibility analysis are also vital. As Carmichael put it so succinctly, Buffalo needs to consider who will come and how to get them here. Part of that, Moriarity said, is a matter of packaging attractions appropriately. But even new packaging may not deliver the desired market, Carmichael warned. Moreover, promising what can’t be delivered will lead to bad word-of-mouth and visits that are never repeated. Some success, Carmichael suggested, may come from exploiting niche markets, such as the family reunion business.

The design of Canal site and vicinity requires a particularly careful balancing of values. There’s a direct trade-off, Carmichael said, between the amount of space devoted to story-telling and interpretation and the amount of space given over to other things. The former usually requires some sort of subsidy while the latter generates revenue. Making a successful project requires a site program that balances economic and historical values, and produces a mix of costs and benefits that works financially. All of the things that might go into the project – housing, retail, restaurant, office, festival markets, and museums – have distinct pluses and minuses, she said.

Otherwise, successful heritage tourism development will require some further investment in “visitor infrastructure.” Tourists use the same roads and airports that residents do. But there will need to be additional hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues to accommodate many more visitors.

Finally, as important as the local tourism industry could become, it’s important to think about it in the context of the region’s overall economic goals and strategies. Any community, Moriarity said, should diversify its risk and pursue multiple development strategies. Or, as Carmichael asked, how does tourism development fit in with the region’s other economic objectives?

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