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Buffalo, New York - University Heights, a struggling college neighborhood [w/images]

Dan

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Here's the neighborhood I grew up in ... University Heights, in far northeast Buffalo.

1buffalo_univ_heights_000-med.jpg

University Heights never really cashed in on the presence of the University at Buffalo South Campus, so it doesn't have the same hip college neighborhood feel of the Elmwood District by Buff State.

University Heights, located at the end of the 8-Main IRC streetcar line, developed as a streetcar suburb from the 1910s through the 1920s. The streetcars stopped running in 1950, but rail transit returned with the opening of Metro Rail in 1986.

The Heights is really a struggling neighborhood. UB expanded on the new North Campus in Amherst in the 1970s and 1980s, and the original South Campus became something of a backwater of the school; today all that remains are the medical and dental schools, the Department of Mathematics, and the School of Architecture and Planning. Racial transition in the adjacent Kensington neighborhood in the 1990s, the exodus of that neighborhood's middle class population, the decrease in owner-occupied housing, and the perception of increased crime all hurt University Heights. The construction of apartments on North Campus is now drawing away the student population, who once filled the neighborhood's two-flats.

Today, University Heights is a lower middle class to upper middle class neighborhood with a slowly increasing African-American population, and a decreasing student population.

Here's the Main Street corridor in University Heights.

Pinzone's Pizzeria
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Another pizzeria.
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Lake Effect Diner
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The Steer, a favorite among the fraternity and sorority crowd.
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A consignment store.
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Yikes! Used cars sold on the sidewalk!
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"Adaptive reuse" of a 1960s-era Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
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Broadway Joe's, a popular jam band bar, next to the former Mickey Rats, a one-time favorite of Buffalo's guido crowd.
1buffalo_univ_heights_012-med.jpg

An abandoned gas station. When I was a kid, this used to be a full service Gulf station.
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Jim's Steak-Out, a local sub chain.
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Caribbean Ratsta-Raunt, mon.
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University Heights is plauged with first floor uses that hurt the potential for pedestrian generation and street animation.
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Blu Bistro
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Chinese Fast Food. An urban legend in the Heights is that the neighborhood's stray animal problem disappeared when this restaurant opened.
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More Main Street.
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The books lining the shelves at Talking Leaves would make some of the bookstores in Berkeley seem conservative in comparison. Stimulance is one of the neighborhood's coffeehouses.
1buffalo_univ_heights_020-med.jpg

Another pizzeria, with ugly signage. This used to be Westworld, a video arcade, back in the early 1980s. Before that, the building hosued a movie theater.
1buffalo_univ_heights_021-med.jpg

Queen City Bookstore, a long-time neighborhood institution.
1buffalo_univ_heights_022-med.jpg
 

Dan

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Parkside Candies, an old fashioned ice cream parlor, is the original occupant of this 1920-s era commercial building.
1buffalo_univ_heights_023-med.jpg

Busy Main Street traffic. The building in the background used to be Herzog's Pharmacy. It's now a hair salon catering to the neighborhood's growing number of African-American residents.
1buffalo_univ_heights_024-med.jpg

A very special short bus is on Winspear Avenue, just east of Main Street.
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More Main Street. Amy's Place is a very popular restaurant, featuring diner food and Mediterranean cuisine. It's staffed almost entirely by lesbians, which lends to the character of the place.
1buffalo_univ_heights_026-med.jpg

Another non-commercial use sucking the life off te street, next to Coffee Bean Cafe, a great little coffee shop.
1buffalo_univ_heights_030-med.jpg

P.J. Bottoms, a bar whose logo used to be "No ID? No problem!" Well, not really, but the crowd in there was always awfully young.
1buffalo_univ_heights_032-med.jpg

More Main Street.
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Irony: Chabad House next to an Islamic halal food store.
1buffalo_univ_heights_034-med.jpg

Fire call boxes are still a common sight in Buffalo.
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More Main Street.
1buffalo_univ_heights_037-med.jpg


Residential areas in University Heights

1920s-era four square houses on Highgate Avenue.
1buffalo_univ_heights_038-med.jpg

Infill development near LaSalle Avenue.
1buffalo_univ_heights_039-med.jpg

Northrup Place.
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Typical college ghetto housing. (I think it's Heath Street.)
1buffalo_univ_heights_041-med.jpg


Let's take a ride on the Metro Rail!

LaSalle Station.
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Ticket machines
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Down into the station ...
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Take a left ...
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Down the escalator ...
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Waiting for the train in the dark, because the NFTA doesn't have enough money to light the stations ...
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Deferred maintenance.
1buffalo_univ_heights_051-med.jpg

BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP! ThisisLaSallestationLaSallestation
NosmokingdrinkingplayingofradiosortapeplayersallowedinallmetrovehiclesandstationsnextstopSouthCampusBURRRP!
BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP!
1buffalo_univ_heights_055-med.jpg

The end.
1buffalo_univ_heights_054-med.jpg




As always, larger images are online at http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery.
 

Gedunker

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The free-standing commercial buildings -- basically four-squares modified to accept commercial on the street and residential above - seem to be predominant, as opposed to party wall commercial construction. The images where structural density is present seem to have more human interaction, as opposed to the detached commercial. Is Main Street actually four travel lanes and two parking lanes, as one of the last images shows? Seems like making the aea less vehicle friendly would be a good first step in revitalizing the area. You could still have the four lanes, but with pop-outs, landscaping and depressed curbs, you could slow drivers down and return pedestrians to the sidewalks.
 

H

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looks like a healthy* area! :)

*assuming pizza and beer are healthy in an social, not medical sense ;)
 

BKM

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2020planner said:
great post! thanks for the pics
It looks a lot like Mid Town Sacramento to me (J Street without the fast one-way traffic)!

Or, a more bohemian/cultured version of parts of my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
 
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