From scribe and organizer Ann Mestrovich:
At first we threw around some ideas for neighborhoods in the city that “stood out” – the area around Canisius College (anchored by higher ed); the East Side (active community and church groups); and the Fruit Belt (adjacent to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus). We then decided to go the obvious route – Elmwood Village. Elmwood is what you’d consider a “cool” area with rising housing values, independently owned and interesting shops, nightlife, and some diverse demographics. This neighborhood is a destination because of its many restaurants, bars, and shops. It has good architecture and green space, with a weekly farmers’ market and annual arts festival. It’s also bookended by museums, a plus for a city that’s just been ranked the #1 arts destination for a mid-size city.
Other positives: the neighborhood refers to itself as a “village” giving it some distinction; we generally agreed that it provides proof to our out of town guests that Buffalo really is, in fact, cool. Especially to Canadians: our proximity to Canada, the value of the dollar, and the Village as a destination bring tourist dollars and positive experiences in.
What isn’t so great:
· While rising housing values are good for homeowners/sellers, it may not be so good for buyers/renters.
· A majority of the population is white (and does a lot of yoga!) so it’s not as diverse as it could be.
· Public schools are an issue; many families try to get into the charter schools or go private – a negative for some.
So I asked, “why did Elmwood turnaround?”
The response was the private actions of dedicated residents and business owners organizing themselves for change.
Another question: “what role did/does the public sector play here?”
Answer: not much, as far as we could tell. One major public sector example, though, was Buffalo State College, which anchors one end of the neighborhood and works to recruit faculty from out of state…which led to this interesting tidbit:
University at Buffalo and other colleges here provide incentives for faculty who buy houses locally, through home loan guarantees, closing fees and down payment costs, etc.
Reactions to Joe Edwards:
Liked the idea of keeping 1st floor space open to retail only; as well as dissuading retail overlap. Elmwood is prized for its independent retail establishments.
It’s near Washington U – which feeds into the local economy; same for Buff State
To note: Joe seemed to own a heck of a lot of property and had very clear ideas of what he wanted to see be developed in the Loop. We wondered, is it good to have development tied to only a powerful few? Some suggested this is true of Elmwood, with only a handful of owners controlling space and rent prices…
Major points to sum up: all of the neighborhoods we mentioned were anchored to cultural or educational institutions and independent business. These anchors, along with strong private sector organization, and good PR are all good for making Elmwood a neighborhood of choice.
Check it: http://www.foreverelmwood.org/