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Brennan Feldman Buffalo Niagara by Design

4/16/08 Final Paper

Planning Didactic and its Implementing Nexus
As far as development is considered; every connection between education and
community affiliation is crucial to the city’s success. This is never as apparent as it is in
planning. From design studios at universities to the city planning boards and preservation
coalitions, every multi-societal relation is paramount to further advancement in a region’s
future. In looking at a University’s programs, you would probably see many professors that
have been great influences in that city, if not other cities. Take the University at Buffalo for
example; many professors in the Architecture and Planning department have had some
influence on Buffalo’s development and synergy towards progress. If this cooperation can
be influential on important city boards, great things can happen. The knowledge of
academics joined with the power and capitol of politics can turn a city around, of course
with sufficient planning and community effort. In the context of place making, a region’s
capacity for an embracing academia and political front is in delicate balance of planning
for this interaction. If it is not available for communities to interact with its learning centers
and its representation, what will come of it but decreased awareness in prevailing regional
and local issues.
This delicate balance can be bound by several factors. One of which is of highest
importance; planning. Without plans, cities will crumble and the public will outcry for
leadership. It is not simple to devise a plan however; many years and progressions of
interaction and strategy must occur first. To appease every party’s needs, and furthermore
wants, is a task only worthy of teamwork and sequence of collaboration. Gaining this final
product usually called a master plan or a comprehensive plan is greatly substantial in the
betterment of a region. In the Buffalo Niagara Region and even in our neighboring country
Canada, recognized plans are: Erie Niagara Framework for Regional Growth, Greenway
Plan, Niagara Falls Master Plan, Amherst Comprehensive Plan, Buffalo Comprehensive
Plan, Queen City Water Front Plan, the UB Master Plan, and even the still continuing
Green Belt plan. All of these collaborations form what is hopefully now a progressing
region. And to continue this progress, much needs to be learned by its inhabitants and
leaders. Co-existence and co-action are primary in the sustainability framework, and it is
just a matter of time before our society’s norm will be disturbed by depleting resources. At
least this region is by a fresh water source.
One plan, among many, stands out for this struggling region; the Erie Niagara
Framework for Regional Growth. Composed by the Erie County legislature comprised of a
conglomerate of influential persons oriented towards a better region, this plan stakes out a
plan to make Erie/Niagara fill the void in the population crisis and repair the past over-
planning for a once thought of emerging population boom. The intrinsic nature of this plan,
being not to override local planning or zoning authorities, is to lay down a framework for
collaborative efforts and induce community initiative in a foundation for action. An article
from the Erie county Legislature website (noted in acknowledgments) states,
“The bi-county steering committee made up of 16 members believes that one way
to normalize the development patterns in Erie and Niagara Counties is to develop regional
growth and development plans. The committee devised the Framework for Regional
Growth, which will serve as an important tool in guiding County officials, local
governments, private developers and citizens when making development decisions in the
region.”
As far as the didactic nature of this plan, it is obvious for one that students are
learning about these plans, and there is a good chance that some will retain and put to use
the information gained from it. But not only have students learned from this plan, but
organizations and active community members have also. In taking several years to
comprise the final product, many stages of strategy and alterations must occur, thus
requiring a broad spectrum of input, which is best aided by community residents in form of
questionnaires or surveys. This cooperation must take place in order to establish a
foundation and raise the trust in community/authority relationship so a better future may be
in line. Without this teamwork, it is another way of saying, “we are your authorities, we
know what is best for you, and it just might work out in your favor”, which usually means
it helps ease politics and gain money in usually un-needed contexts, thus slighting the
community residents. Density decline matched with building under-use and a framework
fit for more than we have, costing the region more than it should, is definitely not
sustainable, and definitely not practical means of re-investment. In search of fixing this
dilemma and implementing this plan, collaboration will occur, and hopefully a new
standard of teamwork among regional authorities and local members may emerge to save
the Erie Niagara region.
Emerging from grassroots origin, the Niagara River Greenway plan aims to make
an otherwise crowded, impractical access to a valuable waterfront owned by this region, a
lake to lake beauty of not only a greener context but a usable connection based area where
from the city, you may see the waterfront and be able to access it without taking time out
of your day for unneeded transportation and impracticality. It was Olmsted’s vision to have
a connected city of park systems and waterfront access, by way of the radial origins the
area was planned for. Extending the legacy of such an influential person would do great
justice to the city, and definitely be beneficial since Olmsted helped shape many places that
still thrive today.
By way of the Greenway Commission, made up of 8 local members, actively
involved in planning for a sustainable waterfront, and 6 state agency heads from: the
Office of Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Department of Environmental
Conservation, Departments of Transportation, Department of State, the Empire State
Development Corporation, and the New York State Power Authority; much co-action of
interests are joined in effort of waterfront connection and beautification. The commission
had several restrictions that make for its sole use to be planning for the mission. It is up
mostly to NYPA to fund the project and sub-contracting on a teamwork basis to make it
happen. This plan is also flexible in that it will evolve over time and take into
consideration future issues.
Connecting this plan to the learning community and its rapidly growing awareness,
the implementation of this plan is scrutinized by many, which is a positive thing because
the more eyes there are on a plan, the more may be thought and brought up to attention to
allow it to evolve. There are always possibilities for improvements even if it takes decades
in doing so. And because the academic portion of the region is involved in its being, the
plan my further stimulate more plans, devised possibly by professors or even students!
This spectrum of attention may spark more collaboration, and in future stages, when it may
be possible to see the waterfront from inside the city, stack on itself in allowing even more
participation in the evolution process. Allowing the space for people to people interaction
is pretty simple, but people to place, is key for people to people to thrive and evolve into a
more complex and efficient means of spatial influence. The greenway plan must achieve
this synergy for interaction, and by way of the planning efforts made so far, not only does
the future of regional development look promising, but prospective community learning
does as well.
From its name, the Niagara Falls Master Plan, can be assumed to be a mix of many
plans. And in fact it is. Devised from many efforts and many years of endeavor from
participating parties, this plan’s agenda is to create a solid connection between the city and
waterfront, naturalize the riverfront and gorge, as well as tell the story of the region so that
visitors may be influenced to maybe stay more than one day to just see the falls! It seems
like a small agenda, but with attention to detail, starting back to the 80’s, the components
of this plan form a giant of an approach to revitalizing Niagara Falls and aiding its future
survival. Setting its sights on 3 major locations: the upper river, the state park/city
interface, and the gorge, the main creators of this plan, Urban Strategies Inc. states their
goal is to, “reposition Niagara Falls as an attractive and vibrant regional center with an
improved quality of life, playing a distinct role within the bi-national Erie and Niagara
Regions.” First released in 2004, this plan also is aware of national efforts in the
betterment of the bi-nation region of Niagara. Conforming to the Greenway plan as well as
the Greenbelt plan of Canada, with joining of all of these concepts the region will be a
future success.
If connection between the naturalization of the Niagara area to its neighborhoods
can happen, so can not only the economic portion of benefit occur, but societal as well. It
gives opportunity to those who like to experience nature and get some fresh air or exercise
get at it with little hindrance. And by telling the story of Niagara Falls and its upbringing,
people may learn from the whole of the plan while they visit the experience center and also
take a trip to the falls once learnt about the context that comes with. Acquiring visitors with
intentions of multiple day stays will not only inevitably draw economic benefits but a
synthesis of better health and mindset to those living in the area.
Between the various steps of implementation among said plans, an imbedded
commonality lies; shared boundaries and common regional and national goals. From
neighborhoods and districts up to state and cross border conditions, implementation of
these plans is done by collaborative efforts, and with the help from the learning
community. If plans were made just by organizations and companies, there would most
certainly be confusion and conflict. Allies in transformation of the region; UB and its host
region Buffalo, as well as a scenario between the reservation and Niagara Falls, even as far
as the Golden Horseshoe uniting; action may only be taken through the combined efforts in
these alliances. Combined effort is only possible through intelligent and strategic aid for
the planning of development. Likewise, the connection is made to academics and
community affiliation, thus binding the situation of action taken by way of erudition and
extensive knowledge.
Utilizing this synthesis of a major academia such as UB embedded within a
growing town, The Amherst Comprehensive Plan portrays a confident schema to which
individuals connected to the planning efforts can confidently be persuaded by the plan and
exert desire towards the finality of the dream for a better region. Composed by Wallace
Roberts & Todd LLC, URS Corporation, Economics Research Associates, and citizens
along with the Amherst Town board, this plan aims its sights on a dynamic, well-
inventoried, and an extensive timeline of turn-around. From the culmination of utilizing its
major college already within, to capturing the assessment of visual congestion and even
storm water drainage, this plan sets its goal to resolve many issues for the future. Deriving
from the UB North Campus and the Audubon New Community in the 1970s, Amherst is
now an extensive community of employment and premier residence. Being that the campus
is within this town, it comprises much of its population, and is considered a college town.
Based on attributes such as livability, community character, and shared direction, the
Amherst Comprehensive Plan unites aspects from college life to commercial activity and
residential awareness. With didactic in mind, there is no better situation than one given in
this town. If there is not interaction between the community and its college community,
there is a problem. Seeing that the large Audubon severs the tie, it may seem ever so true.
While many residents of Amherst may not go to the college or even have anything
to do with it, it is a major sector that needs attention abided to it. With an expanding
knowledge base and prospective growth in student attendance, Amherst must recognize its
hidden pearl. A college town with a good amount of money aimed towards the right
contexts of activity can thrive tenfold. Just taking colleges such as ones with successful
sports teams, so much attention and commerce is directed toward them, they have surplus
of capitol to work with for regional betterment. And with a town actively involved with the
college community, many good things can spawn such as an influx in commerce, stronger
relationships between the two contexts of communities, and even more broad attention via
media, which always helps a region if the media portrays it well.
Knowledge gained from planning efforts will most always manipulate further
thought development. An issue will hardly ever be let go in context of regional
development because there are always more ideas that are put forth and always are
conflicting interests most with beneficial outcomes. Developing these comprehensive plans
are so healthy to a community that without them they would most likely sprawl to no end
and ruin from the inside out, turning into a never ending ghetto-spawn. Between local
projects and major urban development, there is always a need for a medium through which
all may convene and consult for maximum benefit of development. If one project interferes
with another and none are consulting in a plan developed method, errors will occur and
most likely lawsuits happen. This is not what a region needs. Leave capitalistic greed and
grievances behind, and begin the dynamic of collaborative planning so that incoming
individuals and organizations may see the region as a positive area to establish themselves
and not a hassle or depreciative investment for their future.
Beginning mainly out of the industrial era, this region based its lifestyle and future
off of industrial contexts. After this well-lived time passed with the come of suburbia, the
region has consistently declined in population and inherently investment with it. Although
population declined, the planning was fit for a steady and even greater influx of population,
which eventually stimulated its demise due to inability to maintain this inefficiency. People
began to see the city as a burden to their lives as far as health, education, and future growth
was considered. Suburbia was their way out this painful experience. If only suburbia had a
plan, it would have been a viable settlement pattern for a sustainable future. With
inevitable depletion of natural resources, suburbia is bound to fail and our way of care-free
consumer life is at near end.
Luckily, this region, surrounded by an abundance of fresh water, is in positive
foresight for our population crisis. While those in southern and western regions suffer from
importing their water, this region will be advantageous of making commerce from this as
well as enjoy a sufficient amount of fresh water for supplement of the region. Also, the
promise for this region yet again looks positive with the addition of these upcoming plans,
and hopefully awareness in environmental issues. The future lies in environmental
problems and their fixing. Between global warming and our increasing agriculture and soil
problems, every plan should include methods to regain land for not just beatification of
nature for our well being and health, but for a healthier planet and biodiversity. Combining
this “green” way of thinking with sustainable development and planning with action based
from knowledge and collaborative efforts can bring this region closer to the utopia it has
always hoped of.
Even with a positive future planned ahead, the future will still be in need of more
plans. There can never be enough, and they will never cease to be in creation because
every action taken spawns at least one problem that will require a developed plan to
overcome it. Taken from the City of Buffalo’s website, this quote is part of the preface for
the Buffalo Comprehensive Plan stating, “The plan makes an unequivocal commitment to
the use of smart growth principles as tools to revitalize the City and stabilize the region. By
building on our cultural assets, increasing the economic base through strategic investments
in infrastructure and business development, and enhancing the green environment, we are
confident that we can reestablish Buffalo’s position of greatness in the nation and world.”
A little overzealous maybe, but this statement shows the commitment and hope enveloped
within the planning community in the region. Buffalo has suffered many a bad leadership
recently and is in dire need of a better plan to bring improvement or at least to a norm of
what it used to be as a sustainable development process.
Devised by many participants including the Mayor, the Common Council, Buffalo
City Planning Board, the Office of Strategic Planning in Buffalo, Carter International, UB,
as well as some editorial, mapping/graphics, and production support, the Buffalo
Comprehensive Plan defines Buffalo’s need for better planning in order for survival to
occur. The plan describes a vision for Buffalo in the year 2030, as, “In 2030 Buffalo will be
the Queen City of the Great Lakes once more, growing again, renewed, and rebuilt from its
foundations, a model of smart growth and sustainability.” A new era had begun once the
Queen City adopted the University at Buffalo. With a past economy of the industrial era
and then one deriving from its water based shipping and production, new things came
about from the addition of the university. People began to pay more attention to academics,
with news flying around town of things researchers and students have done to either aid the
region or come up with ideas to improve it. Perspectives are the key to both the learning
process and the planning process. This is where the academic portion of the region comes
into play. If a city such as Buffalo can gain perspectives not just from its political agendas,
organizations and prospective organizations, as well as community forums and surveys, but
from an academic standpoint, the diversity and quality of perspective is greatly improved.
Going back to the thoughts of “green” development and sustainability, the Queen
City Water Front Plan brings together ideas from all spectrums of thought to assemble a
plan that aims to reassemble Buffalos once thriving waterfront possession. Some may
criticize this way of thinking to be re-activist in nature and be too conservative for a highly
urban society. In fact, this plan grasps the benefits of conservatism while pushing towards a
dynamic future. The waterfront is where the heart of the city is, and without it, a key
component is missing of not only culture and aesthetic but the core of original planning
and design for the region. Inter-activist coins the representation for this plan as it works
with what “is” and plans for improvement, not just to bring back what was working or
change it all together, but it is a blend of creativity and conservation of working principles.
The Urban Design Project in collaborative effort with Wendell Duchscherer
Architects and Engineers, as well as aid from the Office of Strategic Planning and
Department of Public works in the City of Buffalo, and consultation from the Buffalo
Niagara Riverkeeper, produced this plan in response to what has been a rapidly
depreciating waterfront for the City of Buffalo for many years now. Carefully implemented
in this plan are components of planning documents that share the same overall vision. The
plan states,
“The current plan is the product of the Waterfront Corridor Initiative (WCI) an effort to integrate past
planning work, emerging policy development, and ongoing project implementation within the framework of a
coherent vision, accompanying goals, and priorities for action. The plan incorporates a careful analysis of
more than 120 planning documents containing nearly 700 individual project proposals. It integrates policy
content from The City of Buffalo’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, The Queen City Hub: A Regional
Action Plan for Downtown Buffalo, and The Queen City in the 21st Century: Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan. It
also includes ongoing work on projects that have already been approved and funded.”
For the waterfront to reach its prospective future, many things need to occur. First,
more extensive planning is in line as far as procedures and attention to detail is concerned.
Second, people need to learn about what it means for them if they are living here. If
citizens of a region are unaware of their changing environment, things will be quite
uncertain for the plan’s future, or even turn hostile towards its implementation. And third,
action needs to be taken with respect to the learning citizen’s well being. For action to
occur many procedures and technicalities are in line for review and it will take many years
for finalities of projects. If an envisioned waterfront that is aesthetically pleasing and both
culturally dynamic and beneficial is created, a snowball effect will occur, sparking
prospective economic development and increased academic intervention in planning
decisions. Both are paradigm to the health of not only the waterfront area, but the region as
a whole.
The exemplary of a “green” Buffalo-Niagara region is in grasp, and with planning
at the foot of action, it is looking very promising. Not only in the Buffalo-Niagara region,
but in bi-national context, green moves are being taken to ensure the region as a whole of
being sustainable. Creating a place where people may live and interact with nature within
an urban setting and interact with each other while learning about how the future can
always be looked at towards a positive notion is necessary in this region’s survival. After
all, the future is looking fairly grim, so why leave our planning efforts in the dust and
allow it to consume us? Canada for quite some years now has been a step ahead of the US
at least in this region as far as the betterment of the environment is concerned. Their Green
Belt plan is quite similar to the Greenway plan, just already implemented while the Buffalo
region is still in planning phases. Uniting these plans to form a beautiful green aesthetic
and a bi-nationally sustainable environment can once again bring the region back to its
once successful state with an increasing population and economic base.
Another plan, also noteworthy of recognition, is the UB Master Plan. While it is
necessary to think of the region as a whole before thinking about a university, many
aspects of interconnectivity lie within the realm of possibilities. Not only does a stronger
university mean a stronger region academically wise, but it also extends itself in the
social/economic/political and every other aspect you can think of. With UB’s continuing
outreach for thoughts about its making of a better university comes some of the final stages
of planning ahead. By spring 2009 the implementation launch will occur and great things
will be sure to come. Again, with the UDP @ UB, promising things are sure to follow. For
a learning center with better connectivity, i.e. aiding its alienated Medical Campus, and the
almost alienated South Campus as far as transportation and sociality is concerned, a better
whole unit may emerge. Knowledge gained at UB is knowledge gained inevitably for the
region, even if most graduates leave the area. And with a growing student base in the
Architecture and Planning Department, it also means good things for the region’s planning
situation. Coming into an already initiating better prospect of development, students now
graduating out of these fields are most likely inclined to further help the region now that
they see what its potential is and how they can help it.
Planning didactic and its implementing nexus; sounds like a mouthful but the
concept is truly simple. If the academia and the learning citizen can benefit from the
didactic of planning issues in their resident area, then the reality of implementation is
connected via the “nexus” of action and opportunity for interaction; which boils down to:
the more focus there is on an issue/plan, the more there will be learned, and more
opportunity for interaction and action taken for improvement will take place. And with
gaining interest in the academics of planning towards sustainable development, ideally in
this region, students may be drawn to aid its future. With learning of these plans and
learning of the area’s architecture, students are grasping the ideas presented as a part of
their mindset on what they want to do in the future, and these plans will surely be a factor
in their consideration. Sharing the same vision; these plans, and inevitably those who learn
from them will in one way or another bring success to the Buffalo-Niagara region.