May 20, 2014

Congress for the New Urbanism Next Generation Events Open to the Public During the Official Congress

Almost everyone knows by now that the Congress for the New Urbanism will be hosting their annual Congress in Buffalo next month from June 4th through June 7th. I was lucky enough to snag a press pass so expect to get some updates and thoughts about the sessions I plan to attend. Unfortunately, not everyone can be so lucky to attend the urban planning conference for the ages, but you can still be involved for free!

The CNU Next Generation of New Urbanists is a fellowship within CNU and each evening of the Congress, NextGen will be hosting social, networking and participatory events to maximize the experience of attendees and highlight Buffalo. Check out the amazing offerings that run parallel with the Congress, which are free and open to the public. Some of the NextGen events even feature CNU speakers that are more accessible at these events than the Congress itself. Be sure to stay up to date with NextGen by liking their Facebook page here.


Brewery Tour & Tasting
Tuesday, June 3, 3:00 pm
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
76 Pearl St
Break the ice with cold brewskis with the next generation of New Urbanists at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery. The brewery will reveal a special brew made specially for the 22nd Congress for the New Urbanism.

Canals & Cocktails
Tuesday, June 3, 5:00-9:00 pm
Canal District Ruins (near the Whipple Truss Bridge)
Commercial Slip
Pre-game the congress at a happy hour and networking event at the “ruins” of the Canal District, a once Venetian-like waterfront neighborhood wiped away during urban renewal, and now being resurrected. Discover the restored and re-watered terminus of the Erie Canal, long buried under a parking lot. Meet local activists and special guest Ray Oldenberg, sociologist and writer of The Great Good Place, which revealed how bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other “third places” are central to local democracy and community vitality. At 7:30 pm, a free R-rated tour of the historic Canal District will be offered. The event is co-sponsored by Friends of the Buffalo Story.


Opening Night Mixer & Infamous Pub Crawl
Wednesday, June 4, 7:00 pm+
Pan American Grill & Brewery
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St

Join CNU NextGen at the congress kick-off mixer at the Pan-American Grill & Brewery, located in the Lafayette Hotel. Peatónito, Mexico City’s masked pedestrian revolutionary, will offer up a presentation and short film at 7 pm. At 8 pm, join Peatónito and local Buffalovers as they depart on NextGen's annual pub crawl, which will hit up some of the Rust Belt's coolest watering holes. On tap will be Tappo, Brady’s, Dinosaur BBQ, Founding Fathers... and who knows what next! The event is co-sponsored by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists.

Ineffably Urban
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
341 Delaware Ave
Wednesday, June 4, 7:30 pm
Take in contemporary art and a reading from Ineffably Urban, a new book by Miriam Paeslack that explores Buffalo’s transition from an economy based on heavy industry to a future economy now being defined. Hallwalls itself, a contemporary art center in a repurposed, narrowly saved church, is a must-see!


StrongTowns Roundtable Podcast
Thursday, June 5, Noon
Pan American Grill & Brewery
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
Sit down with Chuck Marohn of StrongTowns at the Lafayette Hotel for a casual discussion of today’s hot topics.

Silos, Brews, & Bonfires
Thursday, June 5, 6:30-11:00 pm
Silo City
Ohio and Childs Sts.
Buffalo’s Silo City is a landscape unlike any other on the planet. Grain elevators—the largest collection of such structures anywhere—tower over the Buffalo River, once the world’s largest grain port. Buffalo’s role as grain capital virtually ended when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, but these industrial giants remain, awaiting adaptive reuse. Explore these ruins with local activists. Food trucks, kegs of local beer, and the “Burning Stan”—a bonfire setting Buffalo’s archetypical working man alight—will be highlights. Andrés Duany and Sjoerd Soeters will give a special presentation at 8 pm. Need a ride? At 5:30 pm at the Convention Center, hop on the Open Air Autobus for a $35, 90-minute waterfront tour that will conclude at Silo City (and bring you back!).

"Sugar Body Surge"
Thursday, June 5, 6:00-9:00 pm
Board of Trade & Commerce Gallery/Resurgence Brewing Co.
1250 Niagara St.
Join in on this West Side art event that brings together two arts entities—Sugar City and BT&C Gallery—which are driving forces in the resurrection of one of Buffalo's forgotten industrial landscapes. Installations and urban interventions by local artists will show creative placemaking at work. The event will include a sneak peek into the city's latest craft brewery, Resurgence Brewing Co.!


First “Street Design Book” Run
Friday, June 6, 7:45 am
Departs from Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
Experience Buffalo at street level. Join Victor Dover and John Simmerman on a morning run around Buffalo!

Buffalo Park-In
Friday, June 6, 5:00 pm
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
CNU NextGen is partnering with the American Society of Landscape Architects, Upstate Chapter, to turn several on-street parking spaces at the Lafayette Hotel into pop-up parks. Construction will start at noon, with unveiling at 5 pm. Expect free tango lessons, too!

Buffalo New Urbanism Film Screening
Friday, June 6, 5:00-11:00 pm
Pan American Grill & Brewery
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
The inaugural New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2013 was a huge success. Audiences were provoked, inspired, and challenged to build better places for themselves and their communities. Now the festival producers are taking the show on the road with a special screening of the award winning videos of NUFF2013. The world premier of “Olmsted’s Enduring Legacy,” a WNED documentary on Buffalo’s park and parkway system, will be featured at 5 pm.

Pecha Kucha & Debate Night
Friday, June 6, 6:00-10:00 pm
Pan American Grill & Brewery
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
NextGen takes over the back room of the Pan-American Grill & Brewery for all-night pecha kucha (starts at 6 pm) and debate and discussion (starts at 8 pm). Have an idea you’d like to present? The floor is yours!

Late Show
Friday, June 6, 10:00 pm
Pan American Grill & Brewery
Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns will record his Late Show and talk up the big topics at CNU 22.


Second “Street Design Book” Run
Thursday, June 6, 7:45 am
Departs from Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
Experience Buffalo at street level. Join Victor Dover and John Simmerman on a morning run around Buffalo!

Five Points +
Saturday, June 7, 11:00 am-3:00 pm
Five Points
Rhode Island and West Utica Sts.
"Five Points +" neighborhood stakeholders, business owners, and concerned citizens will leverage tactical urbanism to traffic calm a dangerous, problematic intersection. Expect a street party, art, chalk, and greenery, to boot! Peatónito, Mexico City’s masked pedestrian revolutionary, will be a participant!

Tour de Neglect
Saturday, June 7, 12:30-2:15 pm
Departs from Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St
Activist, blogger, and photographer David Torke will give the Tour de Neglect, which will guide cyclists across the oceanic devastation of Buffalo's East Side. Starting and ending at bookends of hope, with chapters on change in between, the Tour de Neglect will include all the scandal of the Tour de France without its spandex and champagne. This tour should come with a warning label: “May inspire feelings of civic duty and moral outrage.” The Tour de Neglect will include stops at St. Anne's Church, Wilson Street Farm, Buffalo Central Terminal, William Simon brewery, Sacred Heart Church, and Larkin Power House. Two dozen bicycles will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. An optional lunch will follow at a to-be-disclosed location. The tour is free.

Lunch at the Roycroft
Saturday, June 7, 12:15-3:15 pm
Departs from Convention Center
Elbert Hubbard, the marketing genius of the Larkin Co., took early retirement and founded Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts-inspired colony of artists and artisans in East Aurora, south of Buffalo, in 1895. Eventually numbering over 500, his followers built a number of Roycroft buildings, including an inn, powerhouse, and several workshops. This tour takes us directly to the Roycroft Inn, magnificently restored and filled with Arts and Crafts furniture, decorative fixtures, and murals. A reasonably-priced lunch will be available (tour and transportation cost does not include meal). Cost is $40. The tour is sponsored by the Campaign for Greater Buffalo.

Kickball Tournament
Saturday, June 7, 2:30 pm
Central Wharf
Foot of Main St
Join NextGen for the First Annual CNU NextGen Kickball Tournament. Sign up here:

Hamlin Park Historic District: What's Next?
Saturday, June 7, 3:00-5:00 pm
Departs from Lafayette Hotel
391 Washington St

Hamlin Park is the East Side's only historic district, an African American middle class enclave built around Frederick Law Olmsted's Humboldt Parkway, the Elm tree-framed boulevard destroyed in the 1960s by the sunken pit of the Kensington Expressway. Learn what residents are doing today to reclaim their neighborhood against an onslaught of forces, including the highway scar, population flight, and the bulldozers on its periphery. Meet people who have purchased abandoned homes for a dollar and rehabbed them under a unique program offered by the City. And help answer the question, what's next for the Kensington Expressway? The walk is hosted by Mike Puma, a preservation professional, activist, and Hamlin Park resident.
Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts

May 11, 2014

Be Sure to Sign up for the Green Code Working Groups

Buffalo’s Green Code took a major step forward last week with the release of the public review draft, which can be downloaded here. Now the Office of Strategic Planning is engaging interested community members through a series of working group sessions to review specific sections of the Green Code draft.

This review effort follows up on a series of focused sessions held for the preliminary draft Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that included significant community participation and resulted in extensive input and modifications. The upcoming working group sessions will include a brief overview of the UDO and specific sections to be reviewed, an outline of changes made to the preliminary draft, and will provide an opportunity for dialogue and comments.

Citizens are invited to work with the Green Code team over the coming weeks to review the updated draft UDO. A schedule for the sessions is listed below.

1) Uses: Tuesday, May 13, 4:00 PM, City Hall, Room 901
2) Administration: Thursday, May 15, 4:00 PM, City Hall, Room 901
3) Neighborhood Zones: Monday, May 19, 6 pm, Hutch Tech HS
4) Site Development: Thursday, May 22, 4 pm, City Hall, Room 901
5) Signs: Tuesday, May 27, 4 pm, City Hall, Room 901
6) Transportation/Access & Parking: June 10, 4 pm, City Hall, Room 901
7) Employment Districts: TBD
8) Environment: TBD

If you are interested in participating in any of the working group sessions, please RSVP with Nancy Persico from the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning at or 851-4769.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts

May 10, 2014

Prolific Blogger and Activist, David Torke Brings Back the Tour de Neglect

This morning David Torke of fixBuffalo hosted his first Tour de Neglect since 2010 to highlight the current state of the east side. About two-dozen people converged at the Hotel Lafayette for a two-hour bike tour for some noteworthy buildings in need.

The first stop was St. Ann’s Church at Broadway and Emslie Street. Readers will recall the fate of this amazing church is still very much in the balance. Next up was Sacred Heart Church down the street, another former catholic church that has fallen on hard times.


Revered Kirk abandoned Sacred Heart Church after the emergency demolition bill arrived for the former school that collapsed in heavy winds a few years ago. Although a warrant for his arrest has been out for years and his housing court file is one of the largest around, he remains a free man. In fact, he now operates at an equally impressive church at Hertel Avenue and East Street. It’s apparently unpopular to arrest a man of the cloth so Buffalo’s housing court has practically given up.

David forgave our trespasses on the steps of Sacred Heart
Soon we were headed to the revitalized Larkin District to discuss the potentially threatened Larkin Powerhouse. Originally planned for a residential conversion, it’s future remains uncertain at this time and many fear demolition is coming. Torke was quick to point out the amazing smokestack that can be seen all around Buffalo and was once even taller before being truncated after a lighting strike.

In the shadow of the Larkin Powerhouse, Torke explained the potential demolition threat
Things were looking hopeful when we arrived at the Central Terminal and were granted access to the impressive concourse. Executive director, Marilyn Rodgers discussed the on going efforts to revive the art deco landmark like bringing in tenants for the first time in years. Our tour ended on a great success story with the Wilson Street farm. The urban farm occupies twenty-five contiguous city lots and the land agreement between the family and the city was in large part due to Torke’s efforts.

If you missed out on this amazing event, don’t fret because it will be happening again as part of the Congress for New Urbanism conference next month. Be sure to clear your calendar for June 7th at 12:30 and meet at the Hotel Lafayette. Check out the whole album of today's tour on my Ipernity page here.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts

May 5, 2014

St. Francis De Sales Church Gets Another Significant Price Cut

I’ve posted about this magnificent limestone church in Hamlin Park a few times before and now the price has come down to something more reasonable considering its needs. Originally with an asking price of $450,000 the owner is now looking for $150,000.
The price cut has already gotten some people interested in this historic church designed by George Dietel, the architect of Buffalo’s City Hall. Eligible for historic tax credits to assist with rehabilitation work the church could shine once again. Although the elements have taken their toll on the building there is still a ton of character and original details intact. The opportunities are endless from using it for retail, a massive personal residence, or of course a church once again.
Check out the Hastings+Cohn website for contact information and ask for the listing agent, Cory Haqq. For additional photos of this fabulous space check out my ipernity album here.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts

The Dollar House of the Day: 257 Florida Street

This is the inaugural post in a new series I’ll be doing that highlights the remaining homestead eligible houses in Buffalo. These homes require a full rehabilitation, but they can be purchased from the city for just a dollar. Check out this post for the full background information on the program.
The two-family home is listed at 2641 square feet and has three bedrooms in each unit. Although currently clad in some ugly vinyl siding the clapboard below is likely in great condition and probably only needs minor attention. There seems to be a foundation issue on the east side of the house evidenced by the “sinking” wall, but it can certainly be fixed. The home has owned by the City of Buffalo since 2009 when the owner decided to abandon the property and move out of the area according to neighbors.
257 Florida Street is possibly the best remaining option on the homestead list due to its location within the Hamlin Park historic district. As a result any repairs are eligible for state and federal historic tax credits. For example, if you live in one unit that portion of the house would be eligible for the NYS 20% homeowner program and the rental portion would be eligible for the same 20%, with an additional 20% from the federal government.
If the total project cost is $50,000 and split evenly between the homeowner portion and the rental portion you would see $15,000 of that back in tax credits. The state portion of the credits will be refundable for projects completed in 2015 and beyond. Assuming you could pull down $750 per month from the rental portion and the $15,000 in historic tax credits, the $50,000 rehab pays for itself in just four years. Utilizing the homestead program requires residency for three years and the historic tax credit program has a five-year recapture period in which the property cannot be transferred without losing the credits.
I haven’t been able to access the interior of the home, but this Trulia listing from a few years ago gives you a good idea of how it lays out and the interior features. Check out those leaded glass French doors and all the original wood floors, fireplaces, and period kitchen. Removing the vinyl and giving it a good painting alone would go a long way to making this a gem on the block.
Just one of the greater interior features in this massive double.
I can attest to the quality of the street as well since I’m rehabbing my very own dollar house just a few doors down. Every one of my neighbors has been fantastic and supportive. Many of the properties are owner-occupied and have been in these families for decades. If you’re in the market for a rehab project, you want a quality neighborhood on the rise, and you need something that can make you money in addition to being a great home, seriously consider 257 Florida Street. Get in touch for additional information, 

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts

May 4, 2014

The Public Review Draft of the Green Code has Been Released

The highly anticipated publicreview draft of the Buffalo Green Code was released yesterday by the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning.

The UDO is the city’s first comprehensive zoning rewrite since 1953 and codifies the land use policies of the Comprehensive Plan and Buffalo Green Code planning documents. It will combine land use, subdivision, and public realm (e.g.; streets, parks, and sidewalks) standards into a single, user-friendly document. 

The UDO implements the community’s vision for the development of the city. Responding to considerable input from residents and business owners, it will be a “form-based code,” emphasizing neighborhood character as its organizing principle. This approach was chosen because of its unique capacity to help realize the community’s vision for walkable, transit-supportive neighborhoods. It will be a more accessible document, with illustrations, tables, and plain English text, making the ordinance easier to understand and apply.

A quick review of the code reveals it is an impressive document. All told, it may be one the most progressive and forward thinking in the United States, and an example perhaps of Buffalo getting back its planning mojo.

The code is divided into 12 articles, which can be downloaded below:

Article 3. Neighborhood Zones 
Article 4. District Zones
Article 5. Corridor Zones
Article 6. Uses
Article 7. Site Development
Article 8. Access & Parking
Article 9. Signs

You can check out the draft Zoning Map hereThe next step in the adoption process is a review by the public in a series of working group meetings occurring throughout May. Anyone can participate. Here's the link.

After further comment from the public, the City is expected to make refinements to the public review draft and submit the final code to the Common Council as early as July.

Stay tuned. I'll be back with more in-depth posts on each section of the code.

Views of Buffalo Ipernity      -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile
NTHP Blog     -     Congress for New Urbanism     -     Buffalo Historic Districts