May 16, 2013

The Bailey Avenue Neighborhood is Working Towards a Brighter Future

There is some exciting momentum in the Bailey Avenue neighborhood as improvements are planned for the street, collaborations are under way, and a large section of the area was designated a Buffalo Promise Neighborhood last year. Abraham Cissé is often at the center of all this good news since he founded the Bailey Avenue Business Association (BBA) last year. The BBA stretches from Winspear to Genesee and includes almost 200 active businesses within those boundaries.
Promise Neighborhood
Buffalo Promise Neighborhood map and boundaries

Cissé has been in WNY since 1994 and moved to the Bailey Avenue area in 2004 from Cheektowaga. In his nearly ten years living and operating a business in the neighborhood, he has never had any problems arise. He operates an IT company called ABCIS Technology Services at 3163 Bailey Avenue in the former Varsity/Uptown Theatre with a storefront where they sell and repair computers and accessories.

The Varsity Theater 

The building is also home to a church, a tax office, and in the near future hopefully a Subway. He purchased the building in 2010 and moved from his former location directly across the street. “The building was an opportunity and I could see it’s potential,” Cissé said, “I see the value of a building like this in the community. It can be used for kids functions, school functions, and live entertainment.” The theater seats 630 people and is almost ready for use just as soon as heating and air conditioning issues have been resolved.

Inside the Varsity Theater

Just next door to Abraham’s building, a new early childhood education center is well underway and slated to open this year. The Oisehi Foundation approved a $1 million grant last March for its construction. This education center is part of the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood improvements and will serve about 150 children from infancy to age five.

Childhood Center Rendering
Childhood Education Center rendering. The building is nearly complete

The BBA has reached out to local colleges like UB and Villa Maria to engage students in creating a better business district. Cissé has been talking with UB, offering the theater space for an off campus auditorium, noting that UB south campus does not have a comparable facility. Additionally, the BBA has been in discussion with UB’s Community Outreach program. Students from the business program at Villa Maria will be working with the BBA and individual owners to put together plans for improvements.

An important goal of the BBA has been about creating strategic partnerships with stakeholders like BPN, UDCDA (University District Community Development Association), UDBCC (University District Block Clubs Coalition), and the three Council Members, Richard Fontana, Damone Smith, and Bonnie Russell, all of whom preside over districts that encompass BBA.


Buffalo Police have recently increased their presence in the area at the request of residents and the BBA; the new E-District Chief Beaty has been very aggressive with thwarting crime since she took over the district. BPN was awarded a $962,000 grant from Bryne Criminal Justice in September, to be used for crime and safety prevention in the district.


They are currently working on having beat officers who would walk up and down Bailey Avenue patrolling. “The negative perception of Bailey Avenue is not the reality and the BBA is working diligently to change that perception,” said Cissé. Increasing a noticeable police presence should help people feel safer while shopping on Bailey Avenue.

The BBA and UDBCC have also implemented oversights and reviews for new businesses setting up shop on Bailey Avenue. Any new business must first be approved by the BBA and UDBCC and the owner must pass a background check to ensure they are current on their city taxes, they are not involved in nefarious activities, etc. Additionally, the BBA is looking for infrastructure improvements along Bailey that would possibly include repaving the street, tree plantings, bicycle lanes, and more.


Bailey Avenue has everything going for it to make it a desirable commercial strip; consistent foot traffic, a wide variety of shops and restaurants, close proximity to a large clientele (UB), and great density in the surrounding neighborhood. The combination of the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, the University District Community Development Association, the University District Block Clubs Coalition, planned infrastructure improvements, enhanced safety measures, and the BBA should ensure that the Bailey Avenue neighborhood is moving in the right direction.


For additional photos of the Bailey Avenue Neighborhood check out my Flickr page here.

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