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Thread: Buffalo's unplanned nightlife boom

  1. #1

    Buffalo's unplanned nightlife boom

    Buffalo's Unplanned Nightlife Boom

    I originally posted this over at Skyscraper Page but I thought it would generate some interesting conversation over here. What do y'all think?

    My recent trip to Buffalo brought me down to Chippewa Street.

    As many of you know this area has self regenerated into a very active nightlife area. Early in its history it was a shopping area for the wealthy. Over time it gradually changed over to a nightclub and bar area serving the after hours crowd from the theaters on main street. It gradually degenerated into Buffalo's red light district. The street, though very run down by the 70's retained many active businesses up until the 80's. During this time prostitution was pretty much eliminated on the street and many storefronts became empty. I believe it was in the late 90's when a place called the Calumet Arts Cafe opened on the street and became very popular. It spawned rejuvenation at some of the few remaining businesses and eventually set of a chain reaction of new bars, night clubs, hotels, renovation and even new office space. The city put its high school culinary school on the street adding interesting diversity. All of this happened without big plans and government funding or intervention. It just happened and it is the kind of thing that has been lacking in Buffalo for many years. The growth in the Chip area has continued to the extent that restaurants and bars are opening on adjoining streets as Chippewa has become filled up.

    Here are some images cut from some video I took showing Chipp and the surrounding streets. The scenes shown are quite common on any weekend. I wish there was a way to show the video here
























  2. #2
    Cyburbian GeoTech's avatar
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    Building Momentum in Buffalo

    Hey, if your interested in Buffalo check out this website:

    http://www.wned.org/default.asp

    The local PBS affiliate is broadcasting a local production on the latest Buffalo downtown developments tonight at 8:00 p.m.. Good stuff!

  3. #3
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    applying the Chippewa example to the outer harbor

    I kind of wish other places in Buffalo were allowed to develop in the same way; the outer harbor for example. I just don't think building a fake town on the water will be as successful as making the land available, setting appropriate development ground rules, and allowing more spontaneous and diverse (less phony) development.

    The fact that Chippewa sprang from nowhere, without much planning or subsidy, is one of the main draws of the area. Market forces made it work, not a central planning committee.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by norman
    I kind of wish other places in Buffalo were allowed to develop in the same way; the outer harbor for example. I just don't think building a fake town on the water will be as successful as making the land available, setting appropriate development ground rules, and allowing more spontaneous and diverse (less phony) development.

    The fact that Chippewa sprang from nowhere, without much planning or subsidy, is one of the main draws of the area. Market forces made it work, not a central planning committee.
    I tend to agree with you. That is why I posted this thread. Today's planning is almost always done as the sole source mega sized type. Our cities grew and became interesting because many many people over many years followed the course of their lives to create the phisical structure of our cities. Today we are too impatient and want too much control. We are ultimately dissatisfied with the results of our mega plans because they lack the diversity and interest of the old city. It is impossible for one developer and one planner to design in the kind of diversity that took many people and generations to create. We are often actually afraid of diversity and design it out of our projects prefering to strictly control uses and activities. We design phony diversity by using cutsie architectural facades and spaces to make up for the lack of real interest.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by norman
    The fact that Chippewa sprang from nowhere, without much planning or subsidy, is one of the main draws of the area. Market forces made it work, not a central planning committee.
    Unfortunately, the results of unmolested market forces are not always desirable.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    Unfortunately, the results of unmolested market forces are not always desirable.
    True but, is molestation ever positive?

  7. #7

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    There can be a nice middle ground between gov't intervention and market forces. Brady Street in Milwaukee is a good example of this in terms of an entertainment district. Nothing was "planned" for this area per se, but about 10-15 years ago the businesses on Brady Street, which was then a rough stretch of board-ups, vacant lots and all sorts of human vice, put their heads together and came up with a strategy to turn the street around. City involvement was key in all of this, but ultimately the street was revitalized by the people on the street, not a planner sitting in City Hall.

    The business owners formed a BID that has been one of the most effective ones around. Someone should write a book about how this BID was able to transform Brady Street from skid row into the hottest nightlife street in town. Perhaps one of the most effective things the BID was able to do was lobby City government to take action on a number of things bringing down the street -- vacancies for one.

    Ultimately, though, Brady Street revitalization would have not worked had there not been market demand for a clean, upscale urban entertainment district in Milwaukee.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    ^-- I always assumed that Brady Street's success came from its proximity to the university there. There were a ton of college kids about when I was there. The BID thing is very interesting.

    I also found it interesting that the merchants put their cash together to fund that fake-trolley circulator thing that carries people between downtown and Brady Street to supplement Milwaukee's horrible public transit.

  9. #9
    Grass roots public organizing is ultimately the savior of our inner cities. Buffalo has other examples of this kind of thing though not as dramatic as Chippewa Street. The Elmwood Avenue Business Association as been instrumental in increasing activity on the street and has organized farmers markets and a very successful art fair. The street has always been successful but the group has dramatically increased awareness of the popular business strip throughout the metro area.

    A more interesting group is the Kleinhans Community Association. http://kleinhansca.org/topics.htm The group takes its name from the spectacular Kleinhans Music Hall designed by Eero and Eliel Saarinen which dominates the neighborhood. This neighborhood has a high density of very substantial Victorian mansions and cottages. It has been in decline for many years but always had a dedicated core of residents who saw the value of the place and did not want to lose it. The group they formed has been instrumental in stabilizing the hood and has a very good chance of turning it around. They actively pursue bad owners and tenants, they look for buyers for distressed property and they tend to vacant lots. It is groups like these that give me a lot off hope for Buffalo's future.

    The Music Hall


    Some of the Success Stories



    Garden Walk


    A Loss


    Still a Fighting Chance


    This one could have met a different fait
    Last edited by steel; 17 Jan 2005 at 10:56 PM.

  10. #10
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    Some of the houses in the Kleinhans district are beautiful but abandoned and being ravaged by thieves taking everything from leaded glass windows to oak accents.

    One I've actually been considering taking a look at is at 18 Plymouth. This is an image of the tower room. I love the leaded windows and weird little window ledge.



    Plus, there's a fireplace upstairs:



    and it's only $60,000!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by norman
    Some of the houses in the Kleinhans district are beautiful but abandoned and being ravaged by thieves taking everything from leaded glass windows to oak accents.

    One I've actually been considering taking a look at is at 18 Plymouth. This is an image of the tower room. I love the leaded windows and weird little window ledge.

    Plus, there's a fireplace upstairs:

    and it's only $60,000!
    That one looks in good shape. The buildings are cheap because you have to deal with all the ignoramus class that infests the place. But the Klienhans Association seems to be making some headway. If you are a pioneer you can not go wrong with this one.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    True but, is molestation ever positive?
    Yeah, I know that was a wierd word choice... but I heard it being used in a similar capacity on some news magazine show (60 Minutes, I think)... and thought it wasn't really appropriate. So I decided to give it a shot... yup, still a wierd word choice.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    Yeah, I know that was a wierd word choice... but I heard it being used in a similar capacity on some news magazine show (60 Minutes, I think)... and thought it wasn't really appropriate. So I decided to give it a shot... yup, still a wierd word choice.

    But I think many times government involvement can become a molestation. Not that I am some kind of right wing wacko or anything.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by norman
    I kind of wish other places in Buffalo were allowed to develop in the same way; the outer harbor for example.
    Not going happen when a single quasi-public entity owns all of the land (better be quiet on this one )

    Sad thing is, people allows did use the land and have access to. I went fishing there alot over the summer, as well as swimming.

    They pretty much have the proposal narrowed down to one, but it would have been better if more public input was involved (like the Peace Bridge, whoa I'm going take some heat for that one). Then again they've been sitting on this property for over 50 years, so who knows how long it will take them to get started. Plus the SEQR associated with it as well. Digging canals on contaminated property is probally going slow this one down.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  15. #15
    Not too many replys from the planners on this board. Must all be trying to protect their jobs.

    Could planning be more effective if it was seen as a support mechanism for these types of grass roots efforts rather than an elephant in the china shop that we more often see?

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