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Thread: Buffalo, New York: Elmwood Village - the neighborhood your neighborhood is jealous of (56k no way)

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    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Buffalo, New York: Elmwood Village - the neighborhood your neighborhood is jealous of (56k no way)

    Why would your neighborhood be jealous of some collection of sticks and bricks in a has-been rust-belt city? Well, the American Planning Association considers it one of the ten best neighborhoods in the United States. It has a pedestrian-oriented, mixed use environment, a wide variety of housing ranging from the city's most expensive mansions to middle-end single family houses to two-flats to townhouses to multi-story walk-up and elevator apartment buildings, socioeconomic diversity, a thriving streetlife, an involved and engaged citizenry, and a huge collection of mostly-local businesses. Unlike such neighborhoods in most other cities, Elmwood Village is affordable to new residents and businesses; the price of entry is relatively low thanks to the decades-long doldrums of the regional economy.

    Elmwood Village isn't without its faults. There's some vehicle-oriented intrusions thanks to lapses of judgment in the 1960s and 1970s. Among businesses, there's the same passion for gawd-awful bubble awnings that the rest of the Buffalo area shares, and little in the way of sign regulations to stop their growing proliferation. Litter and untended lawns and tree wells are a problem in some areas. Some landlords prefer to keep their commercial storefronts vacant, for some financial self-benefit that escapes me. Much of Buffalo's frame-based housing stock hasn't aged gracefully, and EV is no exception; there's still a large amount of blighted and run-down properties despite 20-plus years of ongoing gentrification. However, hardcore homers will claim the grit adds to the "authenticity" they value so much in the city's built and cultural environment.

    The photos don't include everything notable on or near Elmwood -- many blocks of commercial buildings are missing due to poor lighting conditions, and I didn't walk south of the Utica Street cluster towards Allentown. The presentation approximates a north-to-south walk, but not everything is in geographic order.





































































































































































































































































































































































































    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Great pics! Vibrant neighborhood with plenty of character. I do see some good examples of "urbanized femininity".

    It's a nice recognition to be one of the APA's "Ten Great Neighborhoods". A neighborhood in my town was one of them last year (I actually helped write the application for it). I'll post some pics up of it one of these days.

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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    [I know the answer to this question already, but still...] Why the heck is there nothing like this in the Southwest (at least nothing outside downtown areas)? It either makes me insanely angry or insanely jealous that there is no urbanism of that scale outside central business districts outside of the Coasts and the Midwest. Everything's flipping drive-happy suburbia.

    Nothing against suburbia, necessarily, if that's your can of beans. But does everything have to be single-family detached monoculture, massive apartment complexes, commercial strips and shopping malls?

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    Cool. I had no idea something like that existed in Buffalo. I think it's time for a road trip.

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    Okay, okay, I realize you probably have no idea of the story behind this, but ... would it be fairly safe to say this is an "Only in Buffalo" sort of image?



    I mean, what's the deal with the (I hope) mannequin in the window?

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    Gedunker, that's a good question. I have no explanation, only a similar thing; the librarians who work in the Inter-Library Loan office at my school (also in western New York) have mannequins in the window, which they dress up for various seasons and holidays. It's especially terrifying at night after a near all-nighter...

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Click image for larger version

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    I've noticed when Dan posts pictures of urban settings there are always one or two similar to this. Dan and Sir Mix-A-Lot have common interests.

    Just saying.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    [I know the answer to this question already, but still...] Why the heck is there nothing like this in the Southwest (at least nothing outside downtown areas)? It either makes me insanely angry or insanely jealous that there is no urbanism of that scale outside central business districts outside of the Coasts and the Midwest. Everything's flipping drive-happy suburbia.

    Nothing against suburbia, necessarily, if that's your can of beans. But does everything have to be single-family detached monoculture, massive apartment complexes, commercial strips and shopping malls?
    That's a good question. And yes, I am a bit jealous of this place. Fortunately, we are likely to be visiting Buffalo in early August and I plan on going right to Elmwood Village.

    I would probably say its an issue of density which was further influenced by the time period in which southwestern cities experienced a lot of growth (post-war, but especially the 50s on). In Albuquerque, the areas that hop like this place (and there are maybe two - but they aren't as large) are either older or developed just on the cusp of the post-war boom. The latter still pushed small retail to the street in a "streetcar suburb" type of style. Today that distinguishes the area from the endless miles of strips on large arterials fronted by off-street parking. Lots were also still fairly small and over time has accommodated in-law quarters which has also contributed to increased density. Go just a little further out, though, and its large lot suburbia on superblocks for miles and miles.

    One thing I find interesting about the Buffalo pics is that so many of the retail spaces are in former residences. Personally, I like this sort of adaptive reuse, but around here, and I would imagine elsewhere, there is a reticence to allow this kind of "creep." Residential is for livin', commercial is for sellin' and never the twin shall meet. In part, it depends on what he proposed use is - near me, there are law offices and bail bondsmen that are taking over homes because we are near the courthouse. But making some allowance for this, especially for more service-oriented retail, helps integrate small retail within neighborhood areas and that really enhances activity and improves local QOL.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    Great pics! Vibrant neighborhood with plenty of character. I do see some good examples of "urbanized femininity".
    There's a lot more of it now than there was two years ago; baby strollers everywhere, a few baby stores, a cupcake bakery (the kind of business I thought I'd never see in Buffalo), plenty of salons and yoga studios, and so on. However, it's more than balanced out by male-oriented and gender-neutral retail, and a staggering number of restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and long-established businesses.

    The retail district of the West Highlands neighborhood in Denver is about three blocks long. Elmwood Village stretches for three miles (five kilometers), between historic Allentown (another very vibrant neighborhood) and Delaware Park. EV has a much different vibe than West Highlands; it's far more diverse, and not as thoroughly gentrified. West Highlands seems like an older neighborhood where everything has been renovated, cleaned up, or torn down and replaced with something new and shiny; it's like an auto show where there's hundreds of perfectly restored classic cars and new high-end European sports sedans. By comparison, EV is filled with classics and daily drivers, but there's still some junkers that somehow pass inspection; some restored buildings, some that have just been well-maintained since they were built, and others that have been butchered with insensitive "improvements" or just neglected.

    While residents of West Highlands are far more often than not young and affluent "Trixies" and "Chads", EV has them along with old money, wealthy families, poor college students, starving artists, punk rockers, gays and lesbians, hippies, and retirees on a fixed income. It's also attracting a small number of NYC refugees fleeing high real estate prices. EV is also far more racially diverse than WH.

    Downtown Buffalo is showing signs of Sex In the City-style girlyness, though ...

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Interesting, Dan. It seems like sort of a microcosm of America. A mixture of everything architecturally and demographically. A "melting pot", if you will. Sadly, there aren't too many of those left.

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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    One thing I find interesting about the Buffalo pics is that so many of the retail spaces are in former residences. Personally, I like this sort of adaptive reuse, but around here, and I would imagine elsewhere, there is a reticence to allow this kind of "creep." Residential is for livin', commercial is for sellin' and never the twin shall meet.
    A bit of a history lesson: Elmwood Avenue used to be almost exclusively residential. However, it was the route of the 26-Elmwood streetcar line, which was the only streetcar line from the most affluent section of Buffalo's West Side to downtown Buffalo. Streetcars were banned from Delaware Avenue, the next major north-south street to the east. Delaware Avenue was Buffalo's Millionaire's Row; today many of the mansions remain and are used as schools, offices, B&B hotels, non-profit organization headquarters, and so on. There's also a large number of luxury mid-rise and high-rise apartment buildings on Delaware.

    Anyhow, back to Elmwood Avenue. In the era before zoning, Elmwood was a natural location for commercial development on the east end of the West Side. Commercial nodes emerged where Elmwood Avenue met crosstown streetcar lines. Between those nodes, Elmwood Avenue is still largely residential. Elmwood Village in reality isn't a single commercial strip, but a collection of urban villages, all a 10 minute walk from the next commercial node.

    The residences as retail: Buffalo doesn't have as many turn-of-the-last-century neighborhood mercantile commercial structures as similarly sized cities. Instead, it's more common to see mercantile-style facades added to the front of houses, or a storefront just carved out of the living room.



    Even in those clusters, many unmodified houses remained, with gradual transition to retail use over the past few decades. Still, there's little creep of new retail into more residential areas; it's mostly infill in the sub-villages. A few street intersections in EV away from Elmwood Avenue have established commercial nodes, for example, the intersection of Lexington and Ashland.

    Last edited by Gedunker; 02 Jul 2009 at 6:53 PM. Reason: fixed img tag
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Okay, okay, I realize you probably have no idea of the story behind this, but ... would it be fairly safe to say this is an "Only in Buffalo" sort of image?



    I mean, what's the deal with the (I hope) mannequin in the window?
    This was my favorite as well. Great set of pics.

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    The first thought that I had when I was going through the above slideshow was that this neat and interesting place could ONLY have developed as such when there was no zoning. It is one of the BIG reasons why I have been steadily souring on the entire concept of Euclidian zoning in recent years - all that it seems to do is make for uninteresting, sterile urban/suburban dullsvilles.

    Invariably, the BEST neighborhoods have tight, eclectic and complimentary mixes of uses that are prohibited from being created in nearly all modern local codes.

    Anyways, here in Appleton, there is also some of that 'commercial in the front yard' thing along Wisconsin Ave on the city's north side - it developed in a very similar manner to Buffalo's Elmwood Ave, but on a much smaller scale. It is also a fairly vibrant, eclectic place.

    Mike

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    Elmwood Village, Buffalo, NY

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Why would your neighborhood be jealous of some collection of sticks and bricks in a has-been rust-belt city? Well, the American Planning Association considers it one of the ten best neighborhoods in the United States.
    Great photo layout, Dan!
    Having grown up on a sidestreet between Elmwood and Delaware Avenues, I always had an appreciation for what we used to call "Elmwood Avenue" or "The Elmwood Strip."

    Back in the day, the legal drinking age was 18, and there were just as many bars as there are today. Mostly non-upscale, which was fine for the early 1970s. Music could be heard from anywhere around (sort of like Beale Street, Deep Elum or Austin).

    The pix brought back a lot of memories. Many of the buildings now house different shops than I recall, but some are basically unchanged except for the name of the joints. I'm glad you got some shots of Casa di Pizza on Elmwood at Hodge, which is still one of my favourite places for pizza and birch beer.

    Buffalo is full of historic architecture, so for those wishing to visit I'd recommend a stroll up Delaware Avenue from downtown to Delaware Park. Soe of the old churches are magnificent. The Allentown neighborhood is a hopping area and boasts some very nice examples of Victorian homes.

    Shea's Theatre on Main Street (downtown) is a grand old theatre which has been recently restored to its original elegance.

    Kleinhan's Music Hall in the Allentown area is home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, but also hosts concerts or all genres. I was very lucky a few years ago to see Buffalo native Ani DiFranco perform there. Her "righteous babe records" is headquartered in Buffalo in a converted church; a great use of an architectural gem.

    And don't forget to visit Niagara Falls.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 06 Aug 2009 at 10:45 AM. Reason: fixed quote tag

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    Great photos!

    I had the good fortune of spending a couple of nights in this neighborhood as a stop on a trip to Stratford several years ago. I stayed in a beautiful two-story rowhouse with a salt of the earth family. Lovely people. Great time.

    Buffalo is one of the very few cities I've visited that have truly fascinated me.

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    very nice...reminds me of a more "mature" south grand in st. louis

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    That Neighborhood is just oozing with character. Nice pedestrian environment.

    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    I've noticed when Dan posts pictures of urban settings there are always one or two similar to this. Dan and Sir Mix-A-Lot have common interests
    Yeah, I particularly liked the patchouli-doused hottentot getting into her car in photo #42.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post


    Is this the one, Maister? I must admit, I am a fan.

    This looks like a great neighborhood. I'll admit that I was shocked to see these pictures are from the Buffalo area, which usually gets picked on as a "shitty rust belt city."

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    mannequins

    Good morning from the Elmwood Village. I registered here just to respond to the curiosity about the mannequin in the window. I don't claim to know the genesis of this trend, but a a few dozen homes, usually in an upstairs window, there will be a whimsical display. Usually a poster sized image of a person. One house has Renaissance angels in two upper bedroom windows. Michaelangelo's "fingertips touching" happens between two hooded dormers. It reminds me that I wanted to try to capture them all on a dog walk one day. Yes, it is an eclectic place with a diverse population that share one common trait..we love it here. Buffalo is probably a way different pace than you think it is.

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    Quote Originally posted by ArtGypsy View post
    Good morning from the Elmwood Village. I registered here just to respond to the curiosity about the mannequin in the window. I don't claim to know the genesis of this trend, but a a few dozen homes, usually in an upstairs window, there will be a whimsical display. Usually a poster sized image of a person.
    Here's another example from the Allentown neighborhood.



    Also in the same neighborhood: the Allentown Bubble Man.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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