5. A Regional Framework for Planning and Action
The Queen City Hub: A Regional Action Plan for Downtown Buffalo is part of a much larger framework for planning and action that extends from detailed planning at the neighborhood and district scale to broader planning efforts at the citywide and regional scale. Some of this work is near completion, some is in progress, and still other elements of the work have just begun. All of it, however, is devoted to building a new economy, incorporating growth management principles, reinforcing existing business and economic life, and improving the quality of life for citizens of Buffalo and the entire Niagara region.
Achieving these goals means facing up to two contradictory trends. The first is that Buffalo, as part of the “Golden Horseshoe” that extends from Rochester to Hamilton, Toronto, and beyond is located in the fourth largest and second fastest growing urban region in North America, adding 110,000 people each year. At the same time, Buffalo and its immediate region have been shrinking. Buffalo lost 10.8 percent of its population in the 1990s, while Erie and Niagara County lost 1.9 percent, and 0.4 percent of their population, respectively. In short, during more than three decades of decline, Buffalo and its region have failed to participate in the powerful economic growth surrounding it. The emerging planning framework, from top to bottom, is designed to turn long term decline to future stability and, in the longer term, smart growth consistent with our position in the bi-national mega-region.
Buffalo's Comprehensive Plan
Queen City in the 21st Century: Buffalo's Comprehensive Plan is a physical land use plan providing a strategic framework to guide both public and private investment in the city for the period 2003 to 2025. Like The Queen City Hub: A Regional Action Plan for Downtown, Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan emphasizes fixing the basics of city service and infrastructure and building on our considerable assets as a city. Like the Downtown plan it calls for using the Ellicott radial plan, the Olmsted park and parkway system, and the waters of the Buffalo River, Lake Erie and the Niagara River as a way to help organize the image of the city. It focuses development in strategic investment areas related to the key public school reconstruction projects, neighborhood retail districts, and key sites available for light industrial and commercial development. The plan is directly connected to the capital and operating budget for the City.
Related Planning and Action at the Regional Scale
Planning and action on economic development and land use at the regional scale will be required to address the problems of Downtown and the City of Buffalo, as well as the two county region. In May of 2002, The Buffalo Niagara Economic Development Agencies Performance Audit, commissioned by the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, produced recommendations for improving the region’s economic development services system, some of which are already being implemented.
Three more such efforts will produce results by 2004. The first is the Erie-Niagara Framework for Regional Growth, commissioned jointly by Erie and Niagara Counties. The second is a regional economic development plan commissioned by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. The third is an effort sponsored by the Oishei Foundation to develop a regional plan for cultural tourism. All three of these efforts promise an integrated regional approach to positioning the economy of Western New York and, as such, the economy of Downtown Buffalo, for growth in the decades ahead.
The collective work and the shared vision of thousands of Buffalonians is ready to pay off in another period of progress. The Queen City Hub: A Regional Action Plan for Downtown Buffalo has set some new goals, reaffirmed some old ones, and framed a clear strategy for continuing action. It understands the importance of always building on our assets and taking advantage of the efforts of decades past. It builds on the inherited framework for greatness found in our radial city plan, reinforced by our historic Olmsted parks and parkways, and drawn back to our historic relationship to the water.
This vision and strategy for Downtown is framed by broader regional visions and strategies and coordinated with other local plans to achieve the maximum possible impact. The formula itself is simple: focus our investments on strategic activity areas and new Downtown neighborhoods; follow key principles for making a great Downtown; concentrate our investments in promising economic sectors; and always work to improve the urban environment for the benefit of the people who use it.
The approach to this work is also simple. We must always work for practical achievements today, no matter how modest. Yet we can never lose sight of the bigger vision and the broader horizon. Perhaps most of all, we must work together, solving problems, building the organizational capacity to take action, and holding one another accountable to the plan. With all of these things, there is no doubt that Downtown Buffalo is poised for greatness.