Urban Design Project's vision for a 21st century city
Fifteen years ago, three hundred citizens met in the studio of a public television station for a community workshop aimed at the rejuvenation of downtown Buffalo, NY. Inspired by Buffalo’s great historic urban designers, residents, public officials, and professionals challenged themselves to think grander. Fifteen years later, Buffalo is implementing a downtown plan (2003), a waterfront plan (2007), and a restoration plan for the Olmsted parks and parkways system (2008), all rationalised under an adopted city-wide comprehensive plan (2006), Queen City in the 21st Century.
The design challenges were immense; first, the scope of work was all-encompassing, from a city-wide comprehensive plan, to strategies to revitalise downtown, restore the waterfront, and rehabilitate the Olmsted parks; and second, there wasn’t one client but many over several years. To overcome these challenges, these plans had to adapt to change – their aim evolved as the city’s needs did. The body of work continues to grow as it responds to social, economic, environmental and political changes.
These plans aspire to repair and enhance the things that once made Buffalo what Olmsted described as 'the best planned city in America': its connection to the water, its 'great bones' first sketched out in Joseph Ellicott’s 1804 l’Enfant-inspired radial and grid street plan, and its truly incomparable city-wide system of Olmsted parks. At the heart of each plan is a devotion to connecting people with assets through excellent urban design, whether it be improving a regional transportation system anchored in downtown, enhancing public access to the waterfront, or connecting new trails and parkways to the Olmsted park system. It is through this devotion that these plans promise to solidify Buffalonians’ connection to place and attract a new generation to the ‘Queen City’ of New York State.